I have always been curious about the evolution of exercise over the last 100 years.
What I’ve learned is that there has always been a pursuit of fitness since the beginning of man’s existence. Man’s quest for fitness has been driven from prehistoric times for survival, through hunting and gathering. Today, we don’t need to hunt, but fitness has taken on a whole new agenda. Today, so many of us are focused on how we look. Years ago, they didn’t even realize how much exercise they were really getting. They weren’t doing it to look better, or to be healthier; they were doing it because it was their normal way of life. They were just doing what they needed to do to survive. Like everything else, there are pros and cons with how fitness has evolved.
We know it has advanced. We know we make more sophisticated equipment. We have gyms with every piece of equipment you can think of. We have machines for every body part. We have free weights, barbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, etc. There’s even a fitness class for everyone. You can choose from yoga, kickboxing, cycle, pilates, etc. However, I also feel we have become much more lax, as everything is available at our fingertips. We don’t have to work hard to get anything. With that said, I wanted to see what the experts thought about exercising in the early 1900s, as compared to now. Going back 100 years or so, exercise took a variety of different forms, but to summarize, quick dynamic exercises were favored over slow or more static ones. Running, jumping, wrestling, gymnastics, and throwing heavy stones are frequently mentioned in all the historical sources I read. Today, more than half of Americans are what we call “couch potatoes.” These people routinely get less than 30 minutes a day of exercise. This is because, as I mentioned earlier, we don’t have to move around to do anything. Everything is available with a click. This is just a fact of modern day life. Research shows that 100 years ago people got five times more exercise, daily, because they had to move around. They weren’t sitting ordering things online. They even had to get up to answer the phone. All this extra movement adds up, and we just don’t do it today. Years ago, people had to move to do everything. Today, we go to work, and in most occupations, we sit for eight hours. Then, we sit in our car and we go home. When we arrive at home, we sit in front of the television. Most people aren’t eating healthy meals, in addition to not moving. Going back years, they had to hunt which involved moving. We have pre-prepared, pre-packaged food that doesn’t require energy to collect. Again. research shows the energy expenditures were three to five times the amount that people spend today. That was just a regular person going to and from work. It wasn’t a lumberjack or someone who was working on the land or someone who had a huge, heavily physical job. Now, I will say that there are occupations today which require physical work, but still, when you add in the car ride to and from work, the unhealthy eating and just sitting on the computer, or watching television, it is a lot less activity than they were doing years ago. They were burning a lot more calories. Today, there are organizations that are determined to build communities where you have to get out of your car to walk to your apartment or condo. They are incorporating bike lanes and walking lanes to encourage people to move. We, as a country, have become so lazy, but it is not our fault. Technology has advanced so much, it has actually made things too easy for us. Not just adults, even children are much more lazy, today. Not even 100 years ago, I’m going to say 40 to 50 years ago, children were playing outside on a regular basis. No one had computers or cell phones. You walked to school. You ate dinner and went back outside to play with your friends. You walked to the local candy store. You were dropped at the mall, where you walked around or you went roller skating and ice skating. You went bowling. All of these activities kept kids moving. Once the computer generation happened, all this activity stopped, and people wonder why their children are overweight or obese, or just seem to be lazy. I am not saying everyone fits this picture, but I am saying a good majority do. It’s the evolution of technology. It has just become too easy to do anything. The physical is one piece. The mental state is another. We don’t even have to think. If you need an answer to just about any question or task, you can find it on the internet or YouTube.
My educated suggestion for everyone is to keep moving, keep reading; it helps you to maintain youth and your health!