Men’s Health

Men’s Health was launched in 1987, under the editorial leadership of Mark  Bricklin, as a general  health and  fitness  magazine for American men. The  president of Rodale Press, Robert  Teufel, conceived of the magazine as a workout and healthy lifestyle  magazine in  keeping with  the  philosophy of  its  founding company. J. I. Rodale created Rodale Press in 1942 when  he began  to publish Organic Farming and Gardening, a magazine devoted to promoting sustainable food production, soil improvement, and  natural living. In 1950,  Rodale  Press  turned its attention more  directly  to  health with  the  publication of Prevention, a magazine devoted to illness  and  disease  prevention. Rodale  Press  remains a foremost publisher of health and  wellness  magazines with  a diverse  range  of titles  including Women’s Health (f. 2005) and Runner’s World (f. 1966).

Men’s Health began  life as an annual publication but,  by 1988,  had  emerged as a quarterly. By 1994,  the magazine was published 10 times  a year with combined issues  for January  and  February and  July and  August. From  the  beginning, the magazine focused on  the  ways in which  men  could  enhance and  improve their lives, and by extension the appearance of their  faces and their  bodies, through exercise and  healthy living. The  magazine, from  its inception, has privileged  expert knowledge and  opinions, citing  in  its articles  a range  of scientific  and  medical studies authored by seasoned professionals and  relying  on  credentialed nutritionists, sex therapists, and  sport-science specialists in formulating advice for its readers. Almost  from the magazine’s inception, contributors to Men’s Health have also presented readers with advice on a broad  range of emotional issues, especially those  related  to stress  relief. This  multipronged approach to male wellness  led to some  great  commercial successes in the  1990s.  Over  the  course of this  decade of dramatic expansion for the men’s  magazine market, the circulation figures  for Men’s Health grew from just under 500,000 in 1991 to nearly 1.7 million  by 1999. The  1990s  also  witnessed the  dramatic expansion of the  magazine’s readership with  the  introduction of a number of international editions; there  are currently more  than 30 international editions of the magazine available in a diverse range of countries including Australia, China, Croatia, India, and Turkey.

As Men’s Health faced increasing competition at the beginning of the 21st century, its editors (most notably editor-in-chief David Zinczenko) sought to broaden the appeal  of the magazine by expanding its content and incorporating a number of new features on careers, finances, family life, and personal grooming. This  shift in  focus  was  also  reflected  in  covers  for  the  magazine which,  with  Zinczenko at the  helm,  moved  away from  photographs of impossibly chiseled and  shirtless physique models toward images  of fully clothed celebrities and  athletes. This  attempt to  create  a more  comprehensive lifestyle  or  how-to manual for men  has had  the  effect of defining  the  Men’s Health audience, in more  highly  articulated ways, as white, heterosexual, and educated. Like Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ), Esquire, and  the  so-called lads’ magazines (Maxim, FHM,  Stuff ), Men’s Health has also focused the attention of readers on matters of sexual performance and proficiency while providing them  with titillating images  (particularly in its online versions)  of attractive women. This  shift  in content focus  has  not  led to a decline in the  number of items  dealing  explicitly  with  men’s  physical  appearance. Features  on creating highly defined pectoral or abdominal muscles still punctuate the pages  of the  magazine, alongside articles  outlining the  benefits of different facial creams, revitalizing  eye gels, and  exfoliators. Magazines like Men’s Health and  GQ have thus  contributed to a broad  range  of impulses: on the  one  hand, they have privileged  the  traditional heterosexual gaze (encouraging men  to view women as sex objects);  on  the  other, they  have  been  noted to  have  filled their  pages  with fashionable and attractive men  who are viewed by male readers simultaneously as objects of envy and desire.

Despite these  changes, Men’s Health continues to take  its mission to promote health and  exercise  seriously. In the  1990s,  it lobbied U.S. Congress to pass  legislation  mandating that  the  week of Father’s Day be designated National Men’s Health Week  and,  in  2007,  it  inaugurated a  FitSchools campaign to  combat childhood obesity  and  encourage health and  exercise  awareness in the  nation’s schools.

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