Guest Post: History of Gyms: Then and Now


Whether you want to get toned, lose weight, gain weight or just spend some time active, gyms have become such a staple part of our routines. There seems to be a gym on every corner, and they are all filled with an amazing variety of equipment. But have you ever wondered how this all started? When were the first gyms opened, and were they anything similar to the ones we frequent today? Knowing the history of it might not be crucial for building up muscle and stamina, but it can give us an interesting insight to how similar or different we are to our ancestors and where the future of gyms might be heading.

The first gyms

Believe it or not, the first gyms actually date around 3000 years in the past. Obviously, people had to stay fit before that in order to hunt down food and survive, but in ancient Persia, areas called Zurkhanehs were spaces where physical fitness was encouraged through a mixture of martial arts and yoga. However, the first gym that is even remotely similar to what we have today would have to be in ancient Greece. The gymnasiums were exclusive, allowing only men, and everyone in them would practice naked. This wasn’t some ritual – they realized that training naked is the best way to display their physical fitness, especially in competitions (similarly to how gymnasts wear small costumes to best show off their form). But in ancient Greece, there was still no equipment, and the sports trained there are the Olympic sports we know today: running, javelin tosses and wrestling, among others. But these places weren’t meant exclusively for physical fitness, as they were also there to serve philosophy and educational purposes. After the fall of the Greeks, the culture of gymnasiums died with them, since most people would get all the physical exercise they needed from the daily tasks they did simply to survive.


From there to today

So how did gyms transform from the man-centered areas of sport into the spaces we know them to be today? The answer lies in three main things. Firstly, in the late 19thcentury, wealthier citizens were looking for any way to improve themselves overall, fitness included. As a part of the search for a more active lifestyle, cycling was introduced, and it was something enjoyed by all. This was the first step towards gyms being a necessary part of our everyday fitness, as our daily tasks started demanding less physical energy. Secondly, we have the evolution of equipment. Gyms today are made to be comfortable, with exercise benches and calf machines to help you tone up, LG air conditioning unitsin the locker rooms to help you cool off, and muscle rollers to make sure you don’t wake up sore tomorrow. But it didn’t start there. Doctor Zander, followed shortly by Jack LaLane, designed some of the first exercise equipment like the ones we know today. And at the same time when the first modern health club was opened in Oakland, there was a rise in boxing gyms, which were, once again, mostly intended for men. And thirdly, the craze that took over the world and sent everyone searching for their “ideal body” made gyms so popular that there are now more gyms and more active gym-goers than ever.


What the future holds

Trying to figure out what gyms will look like in the future is a mighty task, but there are some things that we can count on. The equipment we use will most likely keep getting more and more sophisticated, and as we discover new things about the human body, the equipment will be tailored to give the best performance and minimize the chance of injury. Another trend that has been on the rise in China is outdoor gyms – an intricate combination of obstacle courses, open spaces for various activities, and jogging tracks connecting them all. It is a great step towards reconnecting with nature and spending more time not just being active, but getting healthier by spending time outdoors. Finally, if you don’t have your own personal trainer (and a nutritionist to add to the mix), you are falling behind. We are realizing that each person is an individual being with individual needs, and that we need people specializing in health and fitness to tell us exactly what to do to achieve our specific goals. This means that gyms are getting a personal approach, with more people opting to put exercise equipment right there in their home, in order to make sure they have everything they need for optimal results.

Staying fit might be hard work, but it is not impossible, especially after it turns into a steady routine. And now that you know the history of gyms, you might want to keep in mind that every time you’re stepping on the treadmill, you are contributing to a culture that has existed for over 3000 years.

About the Author:

Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.

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