Guest Post: The History of Physical Fitness


If you think people started exercising only 100 years ago, you’re wrong. Since the rise of civilizations, exercise was a part of human life. So, let’s see how working out changed through history and where we stand today.

Ancient Greeks and Romans

Real fitness and body appreciation started during ancient Greek and Roman rule when they used to exercise to prepare for battle and sports competitions. The movements they used were mostly practical such as lifting heavy things, running and jumping, throwing and catching and fighting. But, outside of war and competition, Romans and Greeks valued a sculpted body and they celebrated the idea that sound spirit lives in a sound body.


The Dark Ages

During the Dark Ages, the body was seen as sinful, shameful and unimportant and all effort should be aimed towards lifting your spirit and preparing for the afterlife. Cultivating the mind was much more important than training the body. Only noblemen trained for battle, while common people got “exercise” through hard work in the fields.


The Renaissance

The Renaissance brought the rebirth of interest in the human body. Aside from the rising interest in science, people also started paying more attention to physical education and there were even books and pamphlets on different drills and games and benefits of exercise on the human body. This period was also marked with the popularization of gymnastics and in 1811, the first open-air gymnasium was opened. That was maybe the first gym ever and the beginning of exercise as we know it today.


The Industrialization

This period brought a more sedentary lifestyle for people which in turn resulted in an increase in deaths caused by cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. This was one of the first proofs that physical activity reduces illness and diseases. During that time, more and more gyms and exercise programs emerged and at the beginning of the 20th century, fitness became a real industry.


20th-century fitness

As the number of people affected by lack of physical activity at work and at home started suffering from various illnesses, the fitness movement grew and took over. That’s why physical activity went through a huge boom, with exercise being conducted in gymnasiums, fields and even at home. Even though home gyms really bloomed at the end of 20th and the beginning of the 21st century with improved availability of professional fitness equipment, many people practiced fitness at home even before. Sure, today’s workout machines and weights are much more efficient, but fitness tapes and novelty fitness equipment certainly helped people get more active.

Modern time fitness

Today, fitness, clean eating and spiritual balance are the staples of healthy living and they basically shape the health industry. In the next 10 or 20 years, experts expect an even bigger rise in the significance of these healthy living components. And if we learned anything from history, we can see that economic prosperity and security of a nation depends on physical health and strength of the population. With physical activity, good nutrition and education, people can improve their overall health and even boost their life expectancy.

Rise in obesity

Despite all the benefits of exercise, people today are more obese and sedentary than ever before. The life today is so easy compared to our history that we don’t need to be fit to be productive and valuable. Plus, most fitness programs concentrate on looking good instead of feeling healthy. But, we are made to move, jump and run, not to sit and stare at the screen the entire day. Luckily, people are creatures of habit, so if you just stick to your workout routine, it will become a beloved part of your life.

Now that you know that even Romans used to exercise, it’s much easier to hit the gym or invest in home gym equipment. Take care of your body and it will take good care of you in return.

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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