People who exercise seldom stop to ask, “When did exercise start?” They tend to be too focused on getting in shape to spend too much time thinking about exercise’s origins. Maybe this is just as well, because no one can be really sure of the answer. I suppose the Cavemen got lots of exercise when they tried to run away from predators.
However, the first documented exercisers were the Greeks. Their “Healthy mind in a healthy body, ” philosophy is something that kept their culture stable for so long. But in recent years, exercise has grown in popularity to the point of being an obsession. What is the recent history of this activity?
The Greek model of rigorous exercise seemed to fade away from European culture over the years. Then in the early twentieth century research doctors started to investigate man’s capacity for physical activity. Austin Flint Jr.(1836-1915) and August Krogh, ( 1874-1949) were leaders in this new push for healthy activity.
Many people attribute the beginning of the modern interest in physical exercise to Jack La Lanne’s long running TV show. Here he encouraged everyone to get active and to challenge themselves physically. His down to earth approach encouraged viewers to make a commitment to themselves to invest in their own health.
After La Lanne had re-introduced activity into everyday life, the marketplace took his message and turned exercise into a multi-billion dollar industry. It is hard to think of anyone today who has never been tempted by late night infomercials to reach for their optimum bodily development. There are thousands of exercise aids available and some of them may even work. But research shows that most of them gather dust in basements and garages. Apparently you have to use them if they are going to help you get in shape. If you pick an exercise that you enjoy regularly you may get in shape just because you’re having fun.
It seems that the answer to the question, ” When did exercise start?” is not nearly as important as the question, “When are you going to start exercising?” There was wisdom in the Greek philosophy about keeping fit. Exercise should be as much a part of our lives as eating and sleeping. History has proven that exercise is essential.