Our ancestors didn’t have to worry about putting aside an hour a day for exercise. They were too busy chasing antelopes or walking miles to find a good patch of blueberries. Exercise wasn’t needed until we invented civilization, allowing us to become lazy.
Physical fitness was encouraged in places like ancient Egypt and Syria. By decree, the Persian Empire required citizens to be fit to ensure a strong military. In China and India philosophers said physical activity was an important aspect of total health and devised training methods such as Kung Fu and Hatha Yoga.
Ancient Greek culture exalted physical perfection. Athenians valued fitness for philosophical reasons and for health. In the early Roman Republic people kept fit building roads and soldiering. Under the Roman Empire, with its huge increase in slave labor, the Romans got fat and, in time, the Empire fell.
In the Middle Ages, physical fitness was a necessity for survival. The Renaissance brought revived Interest in ancient Greek ideals of the human body; some physical education began. In Europe from 1700 to1850 when modern nations where born, so were gymnasiums—the start of modern school physical education.
Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson advocated physical fitness as part of a good education but the American school system mostly ignored them. Physical education was missing from schools for most of the 19th and much of the 20th centuries.
Now, with the increase of information, you might get the impression that people are committed to having healthy bodies. Not so. Recent statistics show physical fitness has made no significant gains. So let’s get out and walk.