Let’s Get Physical (Paperback)
How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World
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A NEW YORKER BEST BOOK OF 2022
'Well-researched and readable' – Financial Times
'An absorbing, pacy read' – New Statesman
'The story of lycra-clad feminism' Stylist
'Canny and informative' – The New Yorker
The untold history of women's exercise culture, from jogging and Jazzercise to Jane Fonda.
Author of The Cut's viral article shared thousands of times unearthing the little-known origins of barre workouts, Danielle Friedman explores the history of women's exercise, and how physical strength has been converted into other forms of power.
Only in the 60s, thanks to a few forward-thinking fitness pioneers, did women begin to move en masse. In doing so, they were pursuing not only physical strength, but personal autonomy.
Exploring barre, jogging, aerobics, weight training and yoga, Danielle Friedman tells the story of how, with the rise of late-20th century feminism, women discovered the joy of physical competence – and how, going forward, we can work to transform fitness from a privilege into a right.
Danielle Friedman is an award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine's The Cut, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Glamour, Health, and other publications. She has worked as a senior editor at NBC News Digital and The Daily Beast, and she began her career as a nonfiction book editor at the Penguin imprints Hudson Street Press and Plume. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.
A well-researched and readable account of how female pioneers broke the taboos that stopped most women exercising until at least the 1960s. Friedman, a journalist, emphasises that fitness has remained accessible primarily to white women with time and resources. Now some pioneers are trying to break those exclusionary barriers too.
An absorbing, pacy read – and her enthusiasm for exercise is contagious.
Fact-packed but bouncy … Most enjoyable is when Friedman shines light on less hallowed figures, like Judi Sheppard Missett, the relentlessly upbeat founder of Jazzercise, whose classes "changed the rhythm of women's days"; and Bonnie Prudden, "the lady in the leotite" and a descendant of Davy Crockett…[Friedman's] book is very much "pro" exercise, but for the right reasons: not slimming down but mood management, community, spirituality in the corporal.
Astute and entertaining … With an emphasis on barrier breakers, business dynamos, and exceptional athletes, Friedman explores how physical training can be a means of personal liberation … This zippy history is bursting with energy.
Canny and informative.
The story of Lycra-clad feminism and how women went from being banned at races to dominating fitness.
There are few areas of American culture as complicated-and as understudied-as women's exercise. Which is why I feel like I've been waiting for a book like Let's Get Physical for decades: something that takes the history and importance of fitness seriously, but is also incisive and curious and readable and fun.
Friedman's study of modern fitness culture is as illuminating as it is enthralling. She reveals the wild characters, political agendas, and social movements that changed not only our exercise behaviors but our understanding of exercise itself. Behind every workout there is a story, and it's usually a good one.
A fascinating and complicated history, masterfully shared. Let's Get Physical made me grateful to the women of the past and hopeful about the future of fitness. My favorite read of the year!
It's easy to critique the class, race, and gender stereotypes perpetuated by many fitness industry advertising campaigns, but Friedman reminds us how revolutionary it was, not so long ago, to encourage women to do strenuous physical exercise. An engaging account of the complicated, unconventional individuals who pioneered today's fitness culture for women.
Don't read this book because it's 'good for you.' Read it because it's an eye-opening cultural history of the fitness pioneers who put the 'move' into the feminist movement. Let's Get Physical reminded me of why feeling strong feels so good.
How did we get from the notion that exercise was unladylike, even dangerous for women, to the 1980s fitness craze and beyond that has totally transformed women's lives? In this lively book, Danielle Friedman uses fitness pioneers and icons, from Bonnie Prudden to Jane Fonda to Lilias Folan, to trace how regular exercise became central to millions of women's pursuit of vitality, confidence, and happiness. Full of fun and inspiring stories, Let's Get Physical reminds us that this is not just a history of sports bras or leg warmers, but also of how feminism itself enabled and drew from women finding empowerment in the strength of their own bodies.
Danielle Friedman's wildly engaging Let's Get Physical answered the questions I didn't even know I had about the origins of women's fitness (Jane Fonda sold how many copies of her Workout?!), and left me with a huge debt of gratitude to the trailblazing women who had the foresight to do things like sneak into the Boston Marathon and invent the sports bra so that we could swan into the gym without a second thought. A fascinating, meticulously researched read that left me with a much greater appreciation for the burn of barre class.
With lively writing and compelling storytelling-tales of bamboo swords, spandex, and a sexy gerbil included-Danielle Friedman teases out the complicated relationship between exercise culture and feminism in this engaging exploration of modern fitness history. You'll want to hit the barre afterward.
It is all too easy to look at the history of women's fitness as an unconnected timeline of fads and celebrities. In Let's Get Physical, Danielle Friedman weaves together the cultural history of a movement that is nothing less than the story of the modern American woman-and she does it with fascinating and fun storytelling that will appeal to anyone who has ever wondered why thighs need to be mastered or buns should be made of steel.
Let's Get Physical is a delicious deep dive into fitness culture that features an eclectic cast of women who deviously ran men-only marathons in the 1960s, turned Jazzercise, aerobics, and barre into mainstream mega fads, and who power-lifted notions of femininity until they included muscles and strength. Author Danielle Friedman tracks exercise culture into the 21st century, debunking myths and delighting readers with diamond-sharp prose, wry humor and rigorous research.
Friedman's engaging stories of the women who created and transformed the fitness industry illustrate an evolution built upon strong female shoulders.