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Running for Your Life

There are few things people want more in life than health and a feeling of youthfulness. We all know that in order to achieve that, a multi-tiered plan needs to be put into effect. One of the components is to incorporate exercise and fitness into daily life. The desire to look and feel good, and keep the body healthy, is no new phenomenon.

Primitive man with his nomadic lifestyle got in some fat burning workouts while hunting and foraging for food and running from deadly animals, though it’s true he likely didn’t know he was benefiting from it. During the Neolithic Period, from 10,000 to 8,000 BC, the agricultural revolution kicked in and so was the start of a more sedentary lifestyle. It would take thousands of years, but the eventual realization that lack of movement could result in health problems was the beginning of the fitness revolution.

It was in the Eastern civilizations where the first fitness regimens, born out of both philosophical and spiritual pursuits, had their beginnings.   

Eastern Wisdom

In ancient India, it was important for fitness to not be simply for the sake of body image, but to emphasize spirituality as well. As a result yoga, which is designed to bring together the body mind and spirit, was developed over 5,000 years ago.

The system of yoga was designed by Hindu holy men who lived extremely ascetic lifestyles high up in the mountains characterized by abstinence, meditation and lack of interaction with people. They observed animals like cats, dogs, lions and camels and hoping to achieve the balance these creatures had with nature, mimicked their postures. Yoga was meant to ensure the proper functioning of the body’s organs and facilitate the well being of the whole body.

In China, the teachings of Confucius and other philosophers similarly emphasized exercise as a way to keep the organs functioning and keep the body free of disease like heart attacks and diabetes. Similar to the way yoga was developed, a man living in solitary in the mountains developed the system known as Tai Chi. The word “Tai” translates to “great” and “Chi” means “energy”. The art form was designed to create maximum energy in the body through movement. Associated with the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang, it was derived from the martial arts. In addition to Tai Chi, the Chinese kept fit by engaging in activities like badminton, archery and wrestling.

While the Indians and Chinese were exercising the body to connect with their spirituality, it was the Greeks who held beauty and physical perception in the highest regards.

Sculpted Abs

It was the belief of ancient Greek medical practitioners like Herodicus and Galen that development of the body was equally as important as development of the mind. Fitness and beauty were held in high regards and those that possessed it had a distinct advantage in life.

Gymnastics was emphasized in Athenian schools for young boys, along with running and wrestling.   Gymnasiums had a paidotribe, similar to a modern day personal fitness trainer. The paidotribes would create fitness routines based on age, gender and fitness level. Activities like discus and javelin throwing were incorporated once students were old enough. In the north of Greece, the Spartans were even bigger fitness fanatics. Their interest was primarily in creating military might by having strong soldiers. Males would begin training at a young age in both fighting and physical fitness. They used bags known as korykos, filled with sand or flour, for punching and striking. They would also play games of strength like tug-of-war. As a result of such extensive activity, Sparta historically is believed to be one of the fittest societies of all time.

The Greeks also were big on weight training and clearly one of the first civilizations to realize the benefits of doing so. In fact in regards to lifting weights and building muscles, the philosopher Hippocrates wrote, “that which is used develops and that which is not used wastes away.” Weightlifting was a popular sport at the Olympic games and competitors lifted a variety of different stones and other heavy objects. Many stories of weightlifting prowess and feats of ancient times still exist today in Greece. It has even been said in Greek mythology that the mighty Hercules was a weightlifter.

From ancient times all the way up to today, the desire to exercise has waxed and waned. The modern fitness crazes in the west are at least in part a result of the abuse we have put ourselves through in the recent past.

Modern Craze

In the U.S., the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century lead to freedom from physical labor at the workplace. This was the beginning of a long and steady decline in physical health. In the 1920’s debauchery was in style and the Great Depression resulted in poor nutrition and even less physical activity. This era was the beginning of mass health problems like diabetes and heart disease. Ever since, the desire to be fit has come and gone in cycles. Numerous fitness crazes from, Jack Lalanne’s strength training and juicing tips of decades past to modern day Tai Chi and yoga classes, have come and gone and then come back again.

Of course, one of the best proven ways to get exercise that has stood the test of time is in the fresh air of the outdoors while doing something you enjoy. Tusker Trail’s treks offer some of the most breathtaking workouts the world has to offer.