When Did Fitness Start To Suck?

The state of fitness absolutely sucks nowadays. We all know this to be the case at even the most casual of glances around. But once you observe that such a phenomenon exists, then you have to ask why? More specifically, not only have people become less fit, but the practice of fitness itself seems to be less effective than ever. There are certainly more gyms around then you could shake a stick at, but despite the sheer ubiquity of fitness facilities, people are getting fatter than ever. Why?

A previous article that I have written on this website┬álays the majority of the blame for the modern world’s growing obesity epidemic on the crappiness of modern diets, combined with a general decay of society… but wait just a minute!

This picture shows men in some rural backwater in India still managing to train and make themselves stronger. Some of the “maces” they’re training with appear to literally be stone blocks on scrap metal poles.

So the general suckiness of modern America is likely not in and of itself a reason for the dismal state of physical fitness. To figure out why that is the case, I think it is best to briefly look at a history of fitness as a discipline and try to find where things went off the rails.

The Ancients

While training likely existed as long as humanity has been walking on two feet—and naturally, movements such as hewing wood, hunting, and stone knapping were arduous physical labors—the first evidence of dedicated physical training as a discipline comes from the first large states/empires that arose millennia ago. Evidence of physical training and strenuous sports exist in civilizations as diverse as the Egyptians, the Persians, and the Greeks.

Naturally, the majority of these sports and trainings were done ...

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