I’m reading a book about health and fitness – shocker! – and came across this passage.

“Man is made with a body containing certain separate parts, each of which must be kept in proper use or the others will suffer. This becomes a troublesome question in complex modern life…Exercise, to produce it’s best effect, must be recreation, mental as well as physical. We cannot separate any one part of our economy and produce the best results. There must be well-rounded development…What most of us want is to have our bodies harmoniously developed on the general plan on which they were built.”

The author also bemoans the fact that the modern man gets too little exercise, both city-dweller and farmer alike, even going as far as to write that thanks to modern equipment the farmer now “may be (physically) inferior” to the average citizen.

The book was written by Theo Knauff and is titled, “Athletics for Physical Culture.” It was published in 1894. One-hundred and seventeen years ago. So nothing has changed since the advent/awareness of the concept of “physical culture” two centuries ago.

Physical culture is what we now call health and fitness, and physical culturists from the day of our great-great-grandparents were singing a song that is still being sung today. You really can learn alot from reading these old fitness books. I like the perspective they provide. In this case I find it incredibly interesting that the affects of the advances of the Industrial Revolution were obvious 120-years ago and the concerns and observations are just as relevant today.

Think about the life of a late 19th century farmer as it compares to the routine of people today; wouldn’t you think it was physically demanding, if not brutal? By the standards of 1894, guess not. Another great observation made by Knauff is the need for recreative exercise and well-rounded development in the pursuit of fitness.

This is a point that is still missed today by way too many so-called fitness experts. Knauff mentions that it was (is) a mistake for people to treat exercise as “a business and necessary work.” Whether it’s 1894 or 2011 this condition hasn’t changed, as there are fitness folks who promote this kind of thinking up to this very second.

Walking on a treadmill, exercise while sitting down in a machine, mimicking mindlessly in an exercise class, following an externally developed diet that tells you what to eat and drink and when to eat and drink it. That, my friends, is work. And it’s a big business getting people to work for their health and fitness.

So take a step back and look at the elements of your routine, heed Theo Knauff’s advice and make sure you are doing everything possible to work your body harmoniously.


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