Men’s Health as a part of the health-oriented market

Men’s Health is published by Rodale Inc. in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. Rodale Inc. is an American publisher company committed to health and wellness which publishes some of the most popular lifestyle magazines, such as Men’s Health, Prevention, Bicycling, or Runner’s World as well as some acclaimed books about health and fitness. Furthermore, two more publications oriented to women and parents, complete the triad of this publishing empire: Woman’s Health and Children’s Health. Although those are not the only launchings (from 2004 they have spun off Best Life, Men’s Health Living, and the Belly Off! Diet book, based on the columns about weight loss testimonials included in every issue of the magazine), the fact of diversifying their contents as well as orienting them to the different targets within family members talks about their commitment with health in social terms. In fact, in 2007, MH promoted an initiative to combat childhood obesity called FitSchools. Some health, fitness, and nutrition experts are sent to several schools around the country each year in order to remake their physical education programs and lunch offerings, as shown in an article published in each issue. In addition, they also created The FitSchools Foundation, a nonprofit organization aimed to help end childhood obesity and get children interested in healthy and active lives in the USA. Therefore, it can be said that MH is not an isolated product focused on fitness, but it constitutes a part of a whole brand concerned with health, which participates in a wider social trend, increasingly sensitive to wellbeing. In this sense, Belinda Wheaton states that “the male body project underlined by Men’s Health sees the body as a ‘passport for the good life’” (2003: 208). According to her point of view, every section is oriented to improve the body in its different aspects from a wellbeing condition, as a way to reach a better quality of life (in fact, the stress in exercise and health is illustrated in the cover of every issue, as showed in figure 1). The magazine performs, consequently, as a reliable doctor who gives useful advice to a trusting reader; “the magazine can be trusted (like a good doctor) not to mislead the reader” (Stevenson, Jackson and Brooks, 2001: 120). In fact, the MH Experts Advisors section provides the readers with the possibility of asking the doctors from different specialities (i.e. cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, exercise science, mental health, neurology, nutrition, sports medicine, weight loss).

Given this, we should consider the growing awareness of healthy habits within American society as one of the potential reasons that explains the success of MH. Not only is the popularity of the magazine visible when checking out its selling figures, with a monthly circulation of 1.85 million, but it is also evident when considering the number of international editions worldwide (more than 40). Moreover, according to the statistics, it is the biggest-selling men’s magazine today. Some online newspapers, such as the Press Gazette, report the success of MH in battling the recession that is affecting the industry of the magazines. Today it is said to be “the top selling paid-for men’s lifestyle magazine in the first half of this year”1. The British newspaper The Guardian also points out these results: “National Magazine Rodale’s joint venture, Men’s Health, recorded its 15th consecutive year-on-year increase – up 2.1% – to overtake Bauer Media’s FHM to become the biggest-selling men’s magazine in the first half of 2009, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations figures”2.

Therefore, it seems necessary to argue about the ways in which Men’s Health’s influential conception about men is changing the social representations of masculinity.
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