Today, when you think about gyms, you imagine rows of treadmills and dumbbells and a mixed crowd of fitness enthusiasts and occasional visitors with headphones doing their own thing. While this might be the ideal setup for many, gyms didn’t always look like that. If you’re a regular at the gym, it’s important to know how your favorite place developed through ages.
The ancient times of working out
Gyms in ancient times didn’t know about yoga or high-performance workout clothing. These Greek gyms were full of naked men exercising to improve their performance at competitions and battles. The very word ‘gym’ originates from Greek ‘gymnos’ which means naked. At early gyms, boys and men received education (women were prohibited from entering), usually physical education, educational pursuits and bathing. In ancient times, gyms were open for the public and athletes could come and prepare for the Olympics. The equipment was very primitive but quite effective, since being built like a Greek figure is still one of the biggest compliments someone can receive.
The Dark Ages of fitness
Once the ancient Greeks disappeared and the Roman Empire fell, gyms, together with other forms of entertainment and physical care, became a thing of the pact. Any pursuit of physical pleasure was frowned upon, which included having a healthy, strong and sculpted body. However, in the early 1800s, Germany made an effort to resurrect gyms. However, these buildings still didn’t resemble the gyms we know and love today. In the middle of the 19th century, many schools started building gymnasiums and leading various sporting and athletic programs. Thanks to these efforts, the public fall in love with fitness and body appreciation once again and started leading a healthier lifestyle.
Appearance of commercial gyms
The first gyms with a commercial nature are credited to French, especially to French gymnast and performing strongman Hippolyte Triat. This bodybuilder opened his workout club in Brussels, and soon after, started a serious business in Paris in the late 1840s. By the time the 19th century ended, other gyms started popping up, including one established by an entrepreneur and music hall strongman, Eugen Sandow. In the early 1900s, he even organized the first physique contest in the world, and later continued to bring the fitness lifestyle closer to the general public by marketing various equipment, diets, dietary products and books. He also became an owner of the first chain of fitness centers in the UK.
Rise of women’s fitness
Until the 80s, women still didn’t have too much interest in fitness. But with Jane Fonda’s exercise videos, many women rushed to put on colorful spandex and legwarmers and join a gym to do aerobic exercises and take dance classes. Today, it’s super easy to join a fitness franchise that caters strictly to women. You can become a member and receive private sessions and enjoy all the privacy and security you need to exercise, but also open your own fitness studio with the franchise to back you up.
Today, and in the future, we will start seeing more and more smart gyms that move away from dumbbells and get closer to fitness technology and AI that tracks and boosts your wellness score. Also, many gyms will have various wearables for their users to put on and connect to gym screens, so they can monitor their performance. Some of the newest high-tech gyms also rely on screens to provide each individual with a private trainer and even use vacuum technology to simulate high altitude training. These high-tech gyms provide users with luxury and practicality from the lobby to the changing rooms and showers.
Next time you go to your local gym, you will feel a much higher appreciation for the space, now that you know the long and turbulent history of gyms. Give it your all during your session to honor those less fortunate than you who still don’t have access to gyms.
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.