Julie Burchill

The tragic cult of fitness

Why gadgets and gear make us lazy

  • From Spectator Life

Due to my rather efficacious dabbling in semaglutides last summer, I’m currently on the mailing list of several online pharmacies, and the other day I received an email making me aware of the existence of ‘fit notes’ – ‘formerly known as sick notes’ – following ‘an appropriate online consultation with one of our GPs’. The consultation alone would cost me £14.95 and should I receive validation as an invalid, a ‘fit note’ would then be offered to me for £19.95, so that’s the best part of £35 quid in order to pull a sickie.

I know someone who appears to go up a dress size every time she buys a new pair of trainers

I won’t be taking them up on it, as for me work is the antidote rather than the malady, but it did make me think of how the word ‘fit’ has gone from a pleasant and unpretentious word – meaning both apt and attractive – to a buzzword which can be used to sell the worried well (and the skiving well, as in the purchase of ‘fit notes’) things that aren’t necessarily going to make them any fitter.

The Fitbit started it; just think, there was a time when we didn’t need ‘activity trackers’ to help us recall if we’d been sitting on our bum all morning or had dragged ourselves out for a bit of exercise instead. Fitbit was founded in San Francisco in 2007, was acquired by Google in 2021 and is now worth over $2 billion; to say it’s successful is like saying Ed Davey is quite keen on having a title. These trackers are generally worn on the arm and can be used to monitor sleep, weight, stress and to track reproductive cycles – but the jury is out on how much use they actually are.

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