Risky or Relaxing? Exercise during Pregnancy in Britain, c. 1930-1960

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Abstract

This article investigates the ways in which exercise and movement became an increasingly important aspect of the antenatal experience in mid-twentieth-century Britain. This theme is explored through the experiences of women who attended fitness classes in the mid twentieth century, and the impact which these all-female spaces had upon their physicality and embodiment during pregnancy. It uses oral history testimony to argue that these exercise classes had a hand in the gradual spread of the idea that gentle exercise during pregnancy was safe for mother and baby, and this played a part in encouraging pregnant women to reject the discourses of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries which suggested that the middle-class pregnancy should be primarily sedentary. These all-female fitness classes played a role in developing ideas about the pregnant female body; educating women about their physiology; and encouraging women to safely maintain sporting identities throughout every stage of their lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-756
JournalWomen's History Review
Volume24
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2015

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