Prescribed Physical Activity: Medical Science and the Integrativ Perspective C. 1820-1950.

Anders Ottosson, University of Gothenburg

Since the 1990s, with main inspiration from USA, an increasingly present component in Swedish health care is prescribed physical activity (PPA). A wide range of skills and professionals are involved in PPA to mitigate the negative effects of our sedentary yet stressing post-industrial lifestyle. What PPA represents is a health paradigm where the healthy and the sick body, including the "mind", must be handled simultaneously. An overarching theme found in the rhetoric propagating for PPA, is that the epistemology of biomedicine prevents us from seeing the “whole person/”. In the same rhetoric one will also find a negative edge towards an (over)use of pharmaceuticals. However, nearly 200 years ago, individualized "prescriptions of movements" were handed out in Sweden, at the Royal Central Institute of gymnastics, a school that heavily influenced physical education in the USA during the late 19th century. These “Swedish” proto-PPAs were as much as today reckoned to be based science and the sick end the healthy body were also seen as organically dependent. Moreover, medical practice was seen as too focused in drugs. Consequently, present day PPA is more of a revival of an older health paradigm than a new one, which raises questions about why it disappeared? In this paper I suggest that the split between the sick and the healthy body, as argued by proponents of PPA, had less to do with the “myopic” epistemology of modern biomedicine and more with sociology. The un-coming and competition-filled expert society could not preserve such a wide competence as was the case during the first half of the 19th century. This also suggest that the “integrative perspective” did not disappear as much as it got detained by new professional boundaries that now, with PPA, have found a new outlet that has migrated back from USA to Sweden

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 140. Health through Different Lenses