"Your body is your business card": Bodily capital and health authority in the fitness industry

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Abstract

Although scholars have noted the connection between appearance and assumptions of health, the degree to which these assumptions matter for establishing authority in social interaction remains less clear. Using a theoretical framework involving "bodily capital"-that is, the value generated from appearance, attractiveness, and physical ability-I investigate the role of appearance in the U.S. fitness industry. Drawing on data from interviews with 26 personal trainers and 25 clients between 2010 and 2011, I find that a trainer's fit-appearing physique imbues their interactions with a degree of moral and health authority. This corporeal credibility engenders trust among clients and allows exercise to be understood as a form of health work. The implications for academics and medical practitioners reach beyond the gym setting and extend recent research linking appearance to health, authority, and medical credibility. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

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Hutson, D. J. (2013). “Your body is your business card”: Bodily capital and health authority in the fitness industry. Social Science and Medicine, 90, 63–71. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.05.003

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