“Exercise,” said Mark Twain, “is loathsome,” though his objections differed markedly from Robert Stacy McCain’s:
Fitness — typically running or weight training, but also cycling or any form of exercise requiring a gym membership — is intrinsically competitive, and thereby serves as a marker of superior status. The disciples of Fitness are engaged in a form of what Thorsten Veblen would have described as “invidious display.”
Said Veblen himself, in The Theory of the Leisure Class:
In order to gain and to hold the esteem of men it is not sufficient merely to possess wealth or power. The wealth or power must be put in evidence, for esteem is awarded only on evidence.
The Joneses, therefore, must be kept up with.
Veblen also had no use for churches, which may or may not have prompted McCain to this thought:
One cannot help but notice that the Cult of Fitness has risen during the same period that traditional religion in the West has declined. It is as if people have embraced physical righteousness in a society whose standards of moral or spiritual righteousness have become so ambiguous.
Still, I’d rather deal with them than with the seekers of environmental righteousness, not least because when they’re working out hard, they’re exhaling more precious carbon dioxide.