Let’s Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World
A captivating blend of reportage and personal narrative that explores the untold history of women’s exercise culture—from jogging and Jazzercise to Jane Fonda—and how women have parlayed physical strength into other forms of power.
For American women today, working out is as accepted as it is expected, fueling a multibillion-dollar fitness industrial complex. But it wasn’t always this way. For much of the twentieth century, sweating was considered unladylike and girls grew up believing physical exertion would cause their uterus to literally fall out. It was only in the sixties that, thanks to a few forward-thinking fitness pioneers, women began to move en masse.
In Let’s Get Physical, journalist Danielle Friedman reveals the fascinating hidden history of contemporary women’s fitness culture, chronicling in vivid, cinematic prose how exercise evolved from a beauty tool pitched almost exclusively as a way to “reduce” into one millions have harnessed as a path to mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Let’s Get Physical reclaims these forgotten origin stories—and shines a spotlight on the trailblazers who led the way. Each chapter uncovers the birth of a fitness movement that laid the foundation for working out today: the radical post-war pitch for women to break a sweat in their living rooms, the invention of barre in the “Swinging Sixties,” the promise of jogging as liberation in the seventies, the meteoric rise of aerobics and weight-training in the eighties, the explosion of yoga in the nineties, and the ongoing push for a more socially inclusive fitness culture—one that celebrates every body.
Ultimately, it tells the story of how women discovered the joy of physical strength and competence—and how, by moving together to transform fitness from a privilege into a right, we can create a more powerful sisterhood.
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