Exercise has been part of our lives, since primitive nomadic times. It was a necessary part of life due to the hunter/gatherer tribal lifestyles. Humans went out, hunted and found water two and three days at a time. Being fit defined human life where celebrations and visiting villages meant walking as much as 20 kms to celebrate with friends and family.
As we progressed, the agricultural revolution evolved and hunter/gatherer tribes stayed in the one area due to the developments of farming and the domestication of animals. Lifestyles became more sedentary. While many hardships were alleviated, daily exercise decreased.
As the world's population expanded across Asia, Buddhist and Hindu priests focused on nurturing the spiritual needs of people and physical exercise was not encouraged. Over time, however daily exercises of gymnastics and yoga which conformed to religious beliefs developed.
Hindu principles of connecting mind, body and spirit meant priests, who lived a simple life, (where discipline and meditation were the main focus) began to observe and copy animal movements through postures and breathing. The ancient philosophers sought to gain the same balance animals displayed with nature and yoga was born.
Translated, yoga means 'union' so a union of body, mind and spirit evolved during this period - 2500-250 BC. It is known as Hatah Yoga.
Today Hatah Yoga is practised in western countries in the same way, it was practised 2 and 4,000 years ago through postures and breathing. The health benefits purported by the ancient philosophers are still current today where 12 million Americans alone practise yoga regularly, with claims it encourages good organ function and holistic wellbeing.
Fast forward through pivotal years in human history, to the Middle Eastern influences where political leaders focused on building military strength and where fitness was highly valued.
Of course, the era most famous for health and fitness was the Greek civilization, the home of the Olympic Games. In contrast the Roman civilization easily fell to Barbarian tribes from northern Europe. Its decadent lifestyle and physical decay of its people meant for an easy conquest.
After this time during the dark and middle ages, fitness experienced a cultural reawakening. Barbarian tribes were culturally similar to nomads, hunting and gathering. So despite the stalling of cultural developments after the fall of the Roman Empire, fitness experienced a rebirth.
The Renaissance (1400-1600) saw a renewed interest in the human body. Influences from the culturally rich periods of the ancient Greek and Roman empires, saw leaders during The Renaissance, such as Martin Luther (religious leader) claiming high levels of fitness enhanced intellectual learning.
During the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe, Scandinavia and the United States of America, fitness was connected with military force and strength. Leaders encouraged its people to participate in programs, building strength and power.
One single critical event from the 19th century which impacted on the lives of humans and exercise was the Industrial Revolution. This shift from rural to urban lifestyles and the change in working habits saw less physical movement and an explosion in diseases such as diabetes, obesity and the development of unhealthy eating patterns.
The lifestyle improvements from the Industrial Revolution had the disadvantage of creating alarming and unwanted costs to health.
During the mid-20th century (1940's) after WW 1 data from the US military revealed most soldiers were unfit for combat and those drafted were highly unfit prior to joining the army.
As a result wide-spread fitness programs were launched across the country, including mandatory physical education classes at schools.
Progress in this area was short lived however when the collapse of economies globally resulted in the Great Depression. Fitness and physical programs plunged as poor economies could not support wide-spread funded programs in America. Gains from earlier years were diminished.
During the latter half of the 20th century exercise gurus emerged reaching millions of viewers on TV. The era of 'go for the burn' and sales of lycra skyrocketed as people 'got physical' with a combination of music and exercise.
Gyms and equipment tantalise us and at the same time repel us usually after we have spent time and money realising the commitment is untenable due to our busy sometimes unpredictable lives. Many of us are vulnerable to clever marketing campaigns riding on the back of the health industry and playing to our fears.
This century as our love affair and access to technology continues, it presents us with many challenges. Historically it appears wealth, prosperity and indulgence may decrease a nation's fitness levels. So as to not repeat the patterns in history we ought to argue fitness, pleasure and prosperity can go together, it must not be one or nothing. We can enjoy ourselves while being fit and healthy.
Don't wait for leaders to show you how, don't be duped into parting with your money on unsustainable programs and activities. Do it yourself, get up and move, be physical, walk in nature, it's all healthy and it's free.
Note: Group exercise is dynamic, inspiring, helps you reach your goals and is fun. Thoughtful spending on structured exercise models weaved into lifestyles will yield sustainable, healthy permanent changes.