Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Andrea Fontana

Number of Pages



The purpose of this study was to analyze exercise messages in American popular magazines. A critical perspective and historical sociological methods were used to examine more than 500 magazine articles published from 1925 to 1968. A common factor in many articles was the use of ideology mixes. Magazines used biomedicalization, materialism, nationalism, and patriarchy in several combinations to authorize restrictive exercise norms. Exercise norms were stratified by age, class, gender, and race, but changing ideology mixes and exercise norms often reflected changes in society. Biomedicalization authorized doctors as gatekeepers. It prescribed moderate activity for affluent men, but discouraged vigorous exercise for physical laborers, women, and people over 40 years of age. Biomedicalization initially discouraged vigorous activity for boys and men then prescribed it for cardiac patients. Patriarchy promoted women's figure consciousness and authorized relaxing or passive exercise and dieting to attain changing standards of beauty. Patriarchy also reminded women of parenting and housework obligations which provided exercise as work. Materialism authorized greater social support and exercise commodities for affluent people, but intellectuals used materialism to trivialize exercise as alienating low-class work. Racism was rarely overt, but status quo racism was implied by the invisibility of minority images and materialist exclusion by class. Nationalism commanded male youth to exercise for survival, and it promoted female youth for national security, but it had limited influence during peacetime. The analysis indicates that messages varied between exercise promotion and deterrence before exercise gained greater legitimacy in the 1950s and 1960s. However, media messages continued to reinforce sedentary behavior and contemporary resistance against exercise. Exercise messages have: (1) been restrictive and contradictory, (2) promoted negative myths regarding exercise in its relationship with productivity, health and weight loss, and (3) reinforced consumer desires and expectations for "fast and easy" results. Judging the power of magazine messages is problematic, however. Many poor people were not privy to magazine messages, and magazine consumers likely ignored or defied various messages by reading selectively. Further research should identify contemporary ideology mixes in sophisticated health and sedentary media messages. Practically, the ultimate goal is to advance consumer awareness and decision-maKing


Authority; Critical; Exercise; Exercise Messages; Exercising; History; Magazines; Messages; Popular Magazines

Controlled Subject

Gerontology; Public policy; Recreation; Mass media

File Format


File Size

7147.52 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have the full text removed from Digital Scholarship@UNLV, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL.


IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit