Physical Fitness is not a recent trend. Physical Fitness is a state that mankind has aspired to, probably since the first cave man realized that being in tip top physical condition enable him to walk, run and hunt faster. I would think that in a world where scary oversized predators where the norm physical fitness was of the utmost priority. Living at the dawn of mankind meant that you did not earn your muscles doing high impact exercises in the safe, temperature controlled confines of a gym. You got fit by walking, running, climbing. Strength and agility kept you safe and ensure that you live to see the next sunrise.
Fast forward to the great ancient civilizations of the Greeks, Romans & Egyptians to name but a few and the name of the game are war and conquest. These ancient super powers put a lot of focus on military training. Young men earned their fitness goals by completing tests of strength and speed in preparation for war and conquest. But what about athletics? After all, it was the ancient Greeks that came up with the very first Olympics way back in 776 BC.
The ancient Olympic Games started as a religious festival in honour of Zeus. It featured a series of athletic competitions such as foot races and wrestling matches to name a few. Athletes came from all over the city-states and they were guaranteed safe conduct by virtue of the Olympic Truce. Unlike the modern day Olympics, the sacred games were only ever held at Olympia rather than moving around from city to city.
The ancient kingdoms of the Far East such as China and India were also encouraging athleticism. However, unlike their western counterparts they did not just focus on the military aspect. The Chinese and Indian ancients were among the first to recommend physical exercise to improve one’s health. They actively propagated the belief that physical fitness in itself is the remedy to a host of physical sicknesses.
The Dark Ages was a dark time for physical fitness as well. The world was in chaos and mankind was in the grip of constant wars and plagues that decimated the population of whole villages and towns. During this time less significance was attached to the physical body. With Church Leaders actively taking part in state politics the common belief of this time was that it was the soul that was important.
Thankfully, the Renaissance brought back interest in the sciences and physical education. El Libro del Ejercicio Corporal y Sus Provechos published in 1553 was the first book of its kind. It exhaustively discusses the benefits of physical activity. Approximately 16 years later the De Arte Gymnastica was published by an Italian physician. Many consider it to be the first book dealing with sports medicine.
The road to fitness as we know it has been a colourful and dynamic one that reflects the beliefs and needs of the times. Fitness trends are incredible footnotes to history that makes for a great post to read.