London: You must have witnessed the mushrooming of gym and fitness centres in your neighbourhood in the recent past. This is just like the spread of fast food chains, a study reveals.
With successful gyms now spreading wings to different countries and promoting a typical body ideal, the fitness industry today resembles in many ways the fast food chains, said a study that explored the development of the modern fitness concept.
McDonaldisation of the gym culture is the theme of the article published in 'Sports, Education and Society'.
The study is partly based on interviews with personal trainers and group fitness instructors.
With the example of the company Les Mills, established in New Zealand in the 1960s, the authors describe the emergence of a strictly regulated and globalised culture in the field of group fitness training.
Les Mills, a giant in the fitness industry, operates based on a franchise model where permission to use the company’s programmes is sold across the whole world.
Spread across 80 countries, over 14 000 gyms that offer a Les Mills programme caters to over four million fitness class participants every week.
“Les Mills implies a standardised set of techniques that look basically the same in all forms of group fitness training. It is really a business empire built around group fitness," said Thomas Johansson, a professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
The concept consists of the company’s head trainer presenting strictly regulated movements, including which music should be played while they are performed.
Such a method limits the competence of the individual instructors as they have no way of changing the movements, music or the way they give instructions, said the study.
The article appeared in the journal Sports, Education and Society.