The Medicalisation of Physical Activity Promotion

20 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2017

Date Written: November 30, 2017


Physical inactivity is currently one of the main concerns of the global health agenda. This article assesses the research question ‘(How) Does the health system medicalise the promotion of PA?’ at both the theoretical and empirical levels. The promotion of PA is first considered theoretically against the healthicisation and medicalisation paradigms. Afterwards, the article empirically analyses the characteristics of PA recommended in 25 health strategies issued by the ministries of health in Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, and the USA. The content of these documents medicalises PA, because it: treats the problem of physical inactivity as a disease; redefines the concept of ‘healthy PA’ in medical terms; creates key functions for health professionals in this area. The differences between a description of the promotion of PA as a phenomenon of healthicisation and of medicalisation are critically addressed in the conclusion.

Keywords: physical activity, health strategy, medicalisation

Suggested Citation

Michelini, Enrico, The Medicalisation of Physical Activity Promotion (November 30, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Enrico Michelini (Contact Author)

Technical University of Dortmund ( email )

Emil-Figge-Straße 50
Dortmund, 44227

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