Workout origins: Why we workout now

By Marion Fernandez
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Workout origins: Why we workout now

Marion Fernandez
 
 
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Many of us try to get some exercise in to maintain our physical health and physique. Whether you go to the gym, hike, or anything else that gets your heart rate up, getting a workout in is simply ingrained in Western culture. But while you are running on that treadmill, a question might run through your mind: why do we do it at all?

Ancient Greece

A scene from a Panathenaic amphora depicting long distance runners. – Author: RickyBennison – CC0 1.0
A scene from a Panathenaic amphora depicting long distance runners. – Author: RickyBennison – CC0 1.0

The concept of working out in company goes all the way back to Ancient Greece. There, athletes would go to gymnasiums to train for games like the Olympics. A lot of the workouts involved building muscle through weightlifting. Cardio wasn’t forgotten, however, as running was also a large part of physical fitness. A big difference between working out today and back in Ancient Greece was that they were known for working out completely nude, including no shoes. We would not suggest that in a modern gym.

Resurgence of gyms

After the fall of Ancient Greece and Rome, the concept of working out for building muscles for sport disappeared. The Medieval period, Middle Ages, and even the Renaissance proved to be a tough time in human history and survival was simply that, survival. People were physically fit if they worked hard, but their nutrition wasn’t ideal, whereas those who had food did not workout.

During the nineteenth-century sports became more accessible to people and as a result, people began to workout again in gyms. Schools and athletic clubs offered the space and means for physical fitness. In the 1930s, boxing gyms came to be a place where men could to get together and fight.

Birth of gym chains

Just like fast food chains where you know the food is of a standard no matter where you are, people take comfort in the fact that there are gym chains, where you can continue to use your membership no matter where you are.
Just like fast food chains where you know the food is of a standard no matter where you are, people take comfort in the fact that there are gym chains, where you can continue to use your membership no matter where you are.

Bodybuilders on Venice Beach appeared in the 1960s after Joe Gold created Gold’s Gym in 1965. The beach then became a landmark for bodybuilders, which continues even today. Gold’s Gym spread and became a chain, which led to other gyms popping up for people to take part in that went beyond just lifting weights and moved to complete physical fitness. The 1980s was really when it took hold and moved to the mass population by the 1990s.

The drive to workout

While the Ancient Greeks may have worked out more for sport and vanity, the reason behind working out today for many people really isn’t that much different. A lot of people go to gyms with the hope or expectation that they will be able to change their bodies into being something more appealing. It does seem like the majority of people who go to gyms aim for physical attractiveness, regardless of the results that they actually get.

Realistically, if people are inclined to workout, they should do it for the right reasons. Working out, whether it is in the gym or anywhere else, should be done with the aim of keeping you healthy. Keeping your body moving will keep all manners of ailments away, increasing your quality of life and your longevity.

When to not workout

Understand what your body is telling you. If you feel something is not right, stop your workouts and consult a doctor
Understand what your body is telling you. If you feel something is not right, stop your workouts and consult a doctor

Regardless of your motivation, you need to understand the pros and cons of workouts and know if you should be working out. The truth is that there are a lot of different kinds of exercises out there so you do get to be picky when you are trying to decide what type of exercise you would be most interested in doing. Talking to your doctor before beginning any exercise regime is always a good idea, but you should also keep in mind how you feel as well. If you have any injuries or if you do something that hurts more than sore muscles, stop it immediately. Don’t kill yourself with a workout. Find one you enjoy and that is good for you.

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