OctoStudy Sociology
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Diversity, Inclusivity, Social Justice for Fitness

In this day and age, few people would argue against physical fitness – if anything, contemporary society probably finds it even more desirable to be fit than several generations ago. However, this theoretical understanding of fitness importance contrasts with the practical results, which point out that more than three-quarters of all Americans fail to achieve a healthy physical activity level (Nocera et al. 5). It would be easy to rationalize this fact as a result of personal neglect, but this simple explanation would underscore the structural factors at work. This is where social justice becomes directly relevant for fitness considerations because it allows highlighting the importance of inclusivity and diversity in this regard. Social justice, diversity, and inclusivity are crucial for a proper understanding of fitness in the contemporary context because of fatphobia, idealization of certain body types, and, most importantly, unequal access to exercise opportunities.

One reason why social justice and inclusivity are important for fitness is the fact that fatphobia, although discouraged, still exists and exerts a negative influence on overweight people’s desire to exercise. Generally speaking, there is no arguing that excessive weight is unhealthy and that physical exercise and healthy nutrition are the best ways to control it. However, one should not confuse the recognition of this medical fact with a dismissive or discriminatory attitude toward overweight or obese people, which constitutes a major social justice issue (Stoll). Specifically, some physical health professionals demonstrate a negative attitude toward overweight people and express disdain toward them, even in cases when there are objective medical obstacles to managing one’s weight (Souza and Ebbeck 19). Due to this labeling and the social stigma associated, overweight people may internalize such perception about themselves and being avoiding physical activity contexts altogether, effectively negating their chances to become fitter. Thus, fatphobia constitutes one of the foremost reasons fitness establishments and professionals should strive to be more inclusive to facilitate rather than undermine physical activity for overweight people.

This reason is closely related to another one, which is the idealization of certain types of bodies in contemporary society. Like any other, it produces and accepts its own images of bodies labeled as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ healthy’, or ‘unhealthy’. One side of the problem is the aforementioned fatphobia, which, unlike the recognition of the medical implication of excessive weight, often takes discriminatory forms (Souza and Ebbeck 19). Another side is the promotion of body images that are unattainable through exercise alone. By promoting images of superheroes, popular actors, and athletes as a norm for healthy bodies yet downplaying or omitting the role of performance enhancers in shaping these bodies, society creates a vicious cycle. Even if people go to the gym to become fit, they soon find out they cannot reach the ‘healthy’ body type with exercise and diet alone, which demotivates them further and exposes them to even greater social stigma (Stoll). Thus, fitness could benefit from greater inclusivity. The best way to achieve it would be to designate a greater range of bodies, with an emphasis on the ones attainable by an average human, as ‘healthy.’

Last but not least, one more reason why diversity and inclusivity are crucial when it comes to physical fitness is that different communities have varying access to healthy diet and exercise opportunities. Throughout the decades, the United States had a long history of residential segregation, which confined ethics minorities to less-developed and less prosperous neighborhoods. As a result, residents of these communities, who also tend to have lower incomes, are limited in their dietary choices and access to specialized physical activity. Research confirms that, in general, ethnic minorities demonstrate lower rates of physical activity and higher rates of excessive weight than the white majority (Nocera et al. 5). Moving beyond ethnicity and race, the majority of gyms in the United States do not accommodate individuals with limited physical abilities despite the corresponding requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Nocera et al. 5). In other words, most American establishments intended to provide physical activity aim for a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that excludes many social groups. With this in mind, diversity becomes an essential consideration for the fitness industry in the contemporary context.

As one can see, inclusivity, diversity, and social justice are essential considerations in fitness in today’s society. On the one hand, the widely spread fatphobia and associated social stigma constitute a social justice issue and a strong preventive factor against exercise, which should be considered and countered. Put together with the often unrealistic body images designated as ‘healthy’ and desirable despite being hardly attainable for an average person, it creates a vicious cycle of demotivation, which can be alleviated through greater inclusiveness. Finally, the limited availability of physical exercise to economically disadvantaged minorities and the unwillingness to accommodate people with physical disabilities create additional obstacles. As a result, when designing a fitness plan, one should remain aware of social justice, inclusivity, and diversity considerations and the impact they have on the ability to live a healthier life.

Works Cited

Nocera, Vincenzo G., et al. “Equality- versus Equity-Based Approaches to Promoting Health and Fitness in Diverse Populations.” ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, vol. 26, no. 1, 2022, pp. 5-9.

Souza, Brian J., and Vicki Ebbeck. “Perspectives on Increasing Positive Attitudes toward Larger Members in Fitness Centers.” Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, vol. 30, no. 1, 2018, pp. 96-118.

Stoll, Laurie C. “Fat Is a Social Justice Issue, Too.” Humanity & Society, vol. 43, no. 4, 2019.

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"Diversity, Inclusivity, Social Justice for Fitness." OctoStudy, 18 Feb. 2023, octostudy.com/diversity-inclusivity-social-justice-for-fitness/.

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OctoStudy. "Diversity, Inclusivity, Social Justice for Fitness." February 18, 2023. https://octostudy.com/diversity-inclusivity-social-justice-for-fitness/.


OctoStudy. 2023. "Diversity, Inclusivity, Social Justice for Fitness." February 18, 2023. https://octostudy.com/diversity-inclusivity-social-justice-for-fitness/.


OctoStudy. (2023) 'Diversity, Inclusivity, Social Justice for Fitness'. 18 February.

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