We are an affluent society, but that affluence has created certain problems. Namely, much of society is no longer forced to work on farms or in manual labor positions, which makes society much more sedentary than in ages past. This has led to many people gaining weight and other associated health problems that come with living a less vigorous lifestyle.
Now, reading the above, it’s not difficult to determine that I’m talking about this day and age. After all, all of that applies. We now have a society where two-thirds of the American population are classified as overweight or obese. This is a direct result of so much of our lives revolving around not having to exert ourselves.
Yet I wasn’t thinking of today when I wrote that blockquote.
Instead, I was paraphrasing a bygone era. I was actually thinking about the Victoria era, the age of people like Louis Cyr and Eugen Sandow. I was channeling and rephrasing comments made from the golden age of physical culture.
It’s funny, though. See, while many of us would look at the Victorian era of the 19th and early 20th Centuries as anything but relaxing–so many of our labor-saving devices hadn’t really been invented yet–, the truth is that they were in a golden age on their own.
Men could work in factories rather than on farms. That meant that while they were on their feet for however many hours a day, they were still less exhausted than when they would be after a day on the farm.
Many others were working desk jobs that simply never existed before. They sat on their posteriors and allowed their bodies to go to flab.
So, the rise of physical culture began.
I’m not going to lie, I have a soft spot for the vintage physical culture. It’s not because I think it’s superior. Just as I think the new and novel for the sake of new and novel can often be a mistake, it’s a mistake to simply assume that everything vintage is somhow superior.
But there was an aesthetic to that era that speaks to me in odd ways.
See, this was the era of the gymnasium. Yes, we get our word “gym” from that one, yet many of these early gyms were what were called “Turner houses.” They sprang from the German gymnasium system with a heavy focus on gymnastic-type exercises. They had parallel bars, rings, pommel horses, and things of that sort.
Then we started getting “gymnasiums” with barbells and dumbbells and that gave way to the gyms of today. Especially since Turner houses ran into problems during World War I.
From there we start to get into ideas like muscular Christianity which gave us the YMCAs that served as the hardcore gyms of the golden age of bodybuilding.
But I’m not trying to get into a history lesson, really.
Instead, I want to think about the difference between then and now. Back then, many flocked to the gyms of the era (even if they weren’t called “gyms” at the time) and began working to live fitter lifestyles.
Today, we have people who argue that not just should we accept that they’re overweight, but we should be force to celebrate it as some kind of liberation activity.
Frankly, I don’t care if they want to live unhealthy lifestyles or not, I just find the discrepancy between then and now a little odd.
Luckily, those people are actually fairly rare. For most, they look for ways to get fitter and healthier. That makes them attractive to predators who offer them a quick fix, but back in those days, it wasn’t any different. There are always those who are interested in separating people from their money.
Meanwhile, there are a lot more people who are interested in helping people achieve their goals. The problem is that they’re not flashy and non-flashy doesn’t sell.
It just goes to show you, the more things change, the more they stay the same.