Fitness Culture, from Naked Greeks and Acrobats to Jazzercise and Ninja Warriors

Daniel Kunitz


In this riveting cultural history of fitness, from Greek antiquity to the era of the “big-box gym” and beyond, Daniel Kunitz explores the ways in which exercise and physical ideals have changed through the centuries, and what we can learn from our athletic past. 

In Lift, Kunitz takes us on an enlightening tour through time, from the ancient Greeks, Asian martial artists, and Persian pahlavans to nineteenth-century German gymnasts and the bronzed bodies of California’s Muscle Beach. He uncovers the roots of the modern gym in the late nineteenth century, following them to the ultimate game-changer: the feminist movement, which kicked off the exercise boom of the 1970s and helped create the big-box gyms we know today.

Reflecting on his own decade-long quest to transform from a fast-food junkie into an ultra-fit—if aging—athlete, Kunitz argues that another exercise revolution is under way now—a new frontier in fitness, in which the ideal of a bikini body is giving way to a focus on mastering the movements of life.

An intelligent, skillfully narrated book, Lift is an insightful look into the history of what it means to be fit.


Daniel Kunitz

Daniel Kunitz has served as editor in chief of Modern Painters, as well as an editor at the Paris Review and Details, and has been a contributor to Vanity Fair, Harper’s Magazine, and New York. He is also an avid CrossFitter and weightlifter. He lives in New York City.