Sure to be a hit on his inevitable tour of TV talk shows (especially among those sitting rather than exer-cycling in front of the tube), sociologist Barry Glassner contends that there's nothing unhealthy about being slightly plump or about preferring gardening to trendier sports like jogging. Glassner's argument initially seems unconvincing: a paean to being sedentary, perhaps an invitation to disease. Glassner, however, more anti-fad than anti-fitness, presents persuasive evidence that voguish sports such as aerobic dance can be more dangerous and no more effective than light sports like daily walking. Glassner also scrutinizes the Paffenbarger Report, routinely cited as definitive evidence that moderate exercise increases longevity. Paffenbarger's study, Glassner points out, was based on death rates of male Harvard graduates, whose median income is roughly twice the national average. "A moral of the Paffenbarger study," Glassner writes, "would seem to be: Protect yourself from disease, go to a fancy university and make lots of money."
America's fitness revolution, Glassner believes, has acted as a smoke screen for a more fundamental cause of ill health in America: class inequality. "Thirty-five million poor and working-class Americans have no health insurance," he writes. "Many more are malnourished or live on diets high in fat, salt and sugar because these are what they can afford." This argument is not entirely persuasive, for the cheapest of diets--based on vegetables--also can be the healthiest. Later in the chapter, however, Glassner offers a more plausible explanation for why the poor eat unhealthfully.