You'd be forgiven for thinking fun fitness trends are a modern concept. The only thing modern about fitness today is the fact that it is accessible for everyone! Until the industrial revolution, we were all such labourers, there was no need for gyms! Still, that didn't stop fitness trends from springing up among the upper classes.
It's a little bit rare that you'll see fully grown men mounting horses with massive swords and rushing towards each other these days. There are those who do reenactments, of course. Good for them, they're very brave and/or crazy. Jousting was HUGE during the medieval and early modern periods. It was a massive show of male bravery, usually restricted to the upper classes. I think this is one of those fitness trends that won't re-surface en-masse any time soon...
Us humans are a tad animalistic, which is why we've been boxing since the ancient periods. The good old Egyptians kept it clean, but the brutal Romans liked to make matters equally brutal by adding stones to their knuckles. Nice! Boxing died out for a bit, then re-surfaced in its bare knuckle form in 17th-century Europe. I've got to admit, I sort of prefer the Hilary Swank approach to the Roman approach. Kicking ass without a high risk of severe injuries is good enough for me.
Good old Confucius, not only did he bestow us with a load of philosophical ideals, he encouraged us to work out too! Way advanced for his time, he realised that fitness was central to health and mental well-being. There is evidence to suggest that Plato was the first person to promote gymnastics, but Confucius added a Taoist twist. With a dose of Kung Fu gymnastics, you can build strength, relax, and feel very zen. How modern.
Okay, so 'backbreaking work' doesn't exactly sound fun. However, in Colonial America, everyone was working so hard to establish a life for themselves, they didn't need fitness! Farming, hiking, heavy lifting...it all came naturally to the first English settlers and the next couple of generations. Today, we don't live quite such tasking lifestyles. Still, if you're feeling up to it, you can start gardening a little more and using transport less to experience similar benefits.
When the industrial revolution began to really kick in, a couple of founding fathers realised there was a need to throw exercise into schools! Both Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson recommended exercise as being beneficial, with Benjamin even recommending AT LEAST two hours a day. Fortunately, a woman called Catharine Beecher came along and created a slightly more fun approach: a little musical calisthenics. This basically meant doing calisthenics to great music. It's easy to see where aerobics came from now!
Back to those ancients again! It's believed that hatha yoga began sometime around the 2nd century BC. It wasn't until the 19th century that it began to sweep across the world. This came with colonisation, which meant yoga teachers established themselves across the world. Once it took off fully in the 20th century, there was no stopping it. It's sort of funny trying to imagine what outfits ladies must have worn for yoga 100 years ago, considering the ones we wear today wouldn't have been conservative enough!
Once upon a time the Olympics only served the superstars of Ancient Greece. Then, in 1612, a man named Robert Dover organized the "Cotswold Olympick Games." There was another period of the Olympics dying out again, before an eventual re-emergence in the 19th century. These events would have been incredibly small compared to the explosive televised debacles we see today. Still, the ethos of speed and strength remained!
Many of the fitness trends from years gone by are incredibly similar to the ones we see today. Back then, there would have been less regulation. In the Romans' case, the regulation focused on making everything as horrific as possible. If you enjoy a certain fitness activity, see if you can look into its history and share it here! It's sometimes surprising where a sport or class has risen from.
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