The decision, whether taking stairs or the escalator is the better choice, has been charged with a new socio-political dimension lately. Both speed and convenience do hardly matter, yet it has turned into a question of fitness and health. As the Fitbit advertisement points out, “fitness is the sum of your life.” It can be found between beginnings and endings or between high and low ends of the exercise spectrum. Gone are the times when physical activity was confined to particular spaces reserved for heavy exercise—like gyms. Today we live in an almost endless sea of fitness opportunities, called: your daily life. Of major importance in this change is the popular trend of logging one’s activities with digital tracking devices,…

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In 1899, in one of the most influential speeches of his career, Theodore Roosevelt called on his fellow citizens to live a “strenuous life.” Roosevelt praised a life of restless movement, always active, always seeking to improve one’s strength and the strength of the nation, always trying to get ahead and to succeed in an endless struggle for survival. In the wake of Darwin and in the age of Social Darwinism, competition, personal responsibility, and constant improvement had become natural laws, considered as governing any interaction between individuals, groups, and nations. Roosevelt preached the gospel of fitness, and its message and tone sound familiar to us, even if we have never heard of his “strenuous life”-speech before. In this blog…

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In spring 2016 Cameron Diaz published The Longevity Book, the long-awaited sequel to The Body Book, a number-one bestseller in 2014. In her books the Hollywood star promises healthier, more fulfilled lives and more beautiful selves to those who follow her guidance. Diaz’s publications are recent additions to a growing corpus of advice literature published by actresses claiming expertise over the female body. Often this advice comes wrapped in a language of empowerment. In The Body Book, Diaz writes: “…nutrition and fitness…are not just words they are tools. They are power. They are ways to care for yourself that empower you to be stronger…and truer to yourself” (2). “Love Your Amazing Body,” the book’s back cover exhorts its readers. The…

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Most of us probably know this situation. We hurry to catch a bus, but we are too late, too sluggish, and the bus takes off without us. We missed it! Sometimes we blame jammed doors and crowded streets; sometimes we blame the bus driver or other passengers who refused to wait or keep the doors open, even though we were almost there; sometimes we blame ourselves because we might have left earlier; and sometimes, we start wondering about our fitness and why we can’t run that fast anymore. At least that thought comes to my mind occasionally: “Wasn’t there a time when I was kind of faster and didn’t get out of breath that quickly when running for the bus?”…

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In 1972 John Yudkin, a physiologist, nutritionist and founding member of the Department of Nutrition at the Queen Elisabeth College in London, published a book called “Pure, White and Deadly – The new facts about the sugar you eat as a cause of heart disease, diabetes and other killers.” Since the late 1950s, Yudkin’s research had pointed to a connection between coronary thrombosis and sugar consumption, and he had argued against common ideas of fat causing obesity and problems like coronary heart disease. However, Yudkin could not make himself heard against the powerful voice of the sugar industry and of other scientific evidence pointing the finger at another suspect, so that Yudkin’s ideas vanished and “low fat became the new…

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