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Train without strain : health and amateur athletes

conference contribution
posted on 2004-01-01, 00:00 authored by Peter Mewett
An exercise in historical sociology, this paper investigates the association between training and health made by amateur athletes between about 1860 and WWI. It examines the idea that while exercise benefited a person’s health and well-being, excessive exertion caused potentially life-threatening ‘strain’. The paper sets out the interpretation of contemporary scientific knowledge about the body–which the author terms the ‘physiology of strain’–that underpinned the advice given to those undergoing a training program for amateur competition. The point is made that the imputed effects of exercise on health were deduced from this scientific knowledge; it did not derive from bio-medical investigations specifically addressing these issues. Amateur athletes included people drawn from the professionally educated elite and medical practitioners figured significantly among them. Using insights from Bourdieu and Foucault, it is argued that their social power and professional connections served to legitimate their interpretation of the physiological effects of exercise (denying the value of the training practices of working class professional athletes) and cemented the physiology of strain as a ‘factual’ statement about exercise and health until well into the twentieth century. The data for the paper comes from training manuals, medical journals and other contemporary publications.

History

Event

North American Society for the Sociology of Sport. Conference (25th : 2004 : Tuscon, Ariz.)

Pagination

1 - 18

Location

Tucson, Ariz.

Start date

2004-11-03

End date

2004-11-06

Language

eng

Publication classification

L2 Full written paper - non-refereed (minor conferences)

Title of proceedings

NASSS 2004 : the 25th annual conference of North American Society for the Sociology of Sport : interdisiplinary dialogues

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