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Lift

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

Product Description and Author Information

About the Book

A fascinating cultural history of fitness, from Greek antiquity to the era of the “big-box gym” and beyond, exploring the ways in which human exercise has changed over time—and what we can learn from our ancestors.

We humans have been conditioning our bodies for more than 2,500 years, yet it’s only recently that treadmills and weight machines have become the gold standard of fitness. For all this new technology, are we really healthier, stronger, and more flexible than our ancestors?

Where Born to Run began with an aching foot, Lift begins with a broken gym system—one founded on high-tech machinery and isolation techniques that aren’t necessarily as productive as we think. Looking to the past for context, Daniel Kunitz crafts an insightful cultural history of the human drive for exercise, concluding that we need to get back to basics to be truly healthy.

Lift takes us on an enlightening tour through time, beginning with the ancient Greeks, who made a cult of the human body—the word gymnasium derives from the Greek word for “naked”—and following Roman legions, medieval knights, Persian pahlevans, and eighteenth-century German gymnasts. Kunitz discovers the seeds of the modern gym in nineteenth-century Paris, where weight lifting machines were first employed, and takes us all the way up to the game-changer: the feminist movement of the 1960s, which popularized aerobics and calisthenics classes. This ignited the first true global fitness revolution, and Kunitz explores how it brought us to where we are today.

Once a fast-food inhaler and substance abuser, Kunitz reveals his own decade-long journey to becoming ultra-fit using ancient principals of strengthening and conditioning. With Lift, he argues that, as a culture, we are finally returning to this natural ideal—and that it’s to our great benefit to do so.

About the Author

Daniel Kunitz

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.

Reviews

“A thoroughly researched and highly informative account… This thoughtful, accessible, and remarkably insightful cultural history of fitness will appeal to anyone who has set foot into a gym or laced up running shoes while wondering, ‘Why am I doing this?’” Booklist (starred review)

“An illuminating compendium… Writing in lucid anecdotal prose, Kunitz is a master at creating a compelling narrative.” Publishers Weekly

“An inspiring read for all shapes and sizes.” Marie Claire, Health News Page, July 2016

“Kunitz concludes that the most effective tools are already at hand and successfully shows how classic methods of conditioning can still be effective today… This book will be of interest to cultural historians and fitness enthusiasts.” Library Journal

“[An] insightful premise.” Washington Post

“Kunitz artfully narrates the history of physical conditioning and our ever-shifting understanding of what it means to be fit.” Wall Street Journal

“A thorough history of the activity and business of fitness.” New York Times Book Review

“An elegant book with literary qualities that suggest George Plimpton. An excellent contribution to the literature of athletic performance and of interest to anyone with a penchant for self-improvement-and not just physical.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)