Aspects of the wellness world connect with conspiracy theories. If you’ve spent some time in bodybuilding forums, fitness Instagram, or really anywhere, this is not a surprise. Most recently, The Guardian covered the “wellness-to-fascism pipeline,” detailing how some people in the wellness and fitness world are susceptible to conspiracies ranging from quacky antivax theories to full-blown Alex Jones brain. And last year, Time highlighted the “White Supremacist Origins of Exercise,” in an interview with Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, author of the book Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America’s Exercise Obsession.
It turns out your far-too-online personal trainer might be sneaking a red pill into your protein shake. The reasons are many, including a lack of trust in modern medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, paired with long periods of isolation thanks to the pandemic. There’s also the right wing influencers targeting incels, who might be convinced their deadlift stats are the reason for their lack of romantic success. It doesn’t help that the fitness industry often leans on “One Weird Trick” to promote quick spot fixes and instant health benefits, which can then sprout into other types of forbidden “wisdom.”
What this Guardian story doesn’t say is that exercise is inherently right-wing. The connections are plentiful, and you can expect to see more of them. But you can expect to see people make logical jumps in what the stories mean, as they have in the past. In July, MSNBC tweeted a year-old story about the far-right’s obsession with fitness. The story was incorrectly boiled down by social media platform owner Elon Musk, who replied “MSNBC thinks you’re a nazi if you work out lmaooo” in a tweet.
‘Being healthy is ‘far right.’ Holy fuck.” Joe Rogan said.
There are compelling and documented examples in each of these stories. But Musk and Rogan’s responses are making leaps that aren’t borne out by the stories themselves.
Petrzela, to take just one example, is clear that exercise is not a form of bigotry. “We should acknowledge that that’s one of the few things that we can agree on in our culture, and then have a kind of bipartisan shared investment in better physical education, better recreation [spaces] for kids and adults,” she told Time.
Of course, exercise does not make you fascist. This is ridiculous, and also erases the lived experience of many, many fascists who do not lift.