Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Fitness: Activity in History part 10

When industrialization put workers firmly on the never-ending treadmill that produced the consumer goods of the Victorian world, the ability to play was, in a large part, lost to the working man. Play had been barred to his female partner many years before. Her life had been filled with the need to make do and feed her family when her mate was an ag lab, when industrialization came in, she had the same role and/or became a factory hand herself.

With the growth of leisure and the expansion of the sporting world, men of all stripes were gradually included in the fun. As they agitated for more power, and attitudes toward them changed, women were able to join in more activities that showcased their abilities rather than their helpless beauty. Children, of course, naturally gravitated to play. But there was one other group that rarely figured in play or the sporting world, a group that included members of both sexes, those who were labelled “the elderly”.

It seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon that age is becoming less of a barrier to an active life. Even in professional sports the retirement ages for some players are becoming later and later. For the hoi polloi, activity is encouraged at older ages with stories of successful elders being cited as inspiration to the rest. One of these inspiration heroes was Olga Kotelko, who competed in track and field well into her 90s. 

While most people can’t aspire to record breaking sports stats in their later years, it is possible to remain active as long as mobility remains. Take a fitness class, join a gym or activity group no matter what your age. Your body will thank you for it. 




Saturday, 11 February 2017

Fitness: Activity in History part 9

In the 20th and now 21st centuries, people don’t just watch sports. They have the opportunity to participate in various activities. In fact, they are encouraged to get moving by government policies, the media and the marketers of fitness equipment. 

In the mid 20th century, Charles Atlas advertised his brand of body building with the story that he had used it to develop from a “98-pound weakling”, to appeal to men. Did it work? I don’t know, but it is a tag line that has resonated through the years. A craze that got more people going in the ‘50s was the hula-hoop; part kids toy and part adult challenge. 

Advertising kicked things up a notch in the ‘80s using celebrities to flog equipment, like Suzanne Sommer’s Thigh Master, or to capitalize on a fad, like Jane Fonda’s fitness tapes which added another dimension to the aerobics craze. In this decade another male bastion was breached when women were encouraged to get into weigh training. The ‘90s made roller skating cool again with the development of roller blades and, those who were seriously into getting fit, could run through their paces in a Boot Camp. 

Boot Camp was still big when the new millennium dawned but so were yoga and, the newcomer, pilates. Spinning was also a popular gym activity. This moment’s trends are activity counters like the Fitbit, which encourages people to get walking while allowing them to use social media to create groups of users to encourage and compete with each other. Who can say what the next fitness craze will be?

Whatever it is, people will join in, reminding us that it is good to play and move if our health allows. But you don’t have to follow the latest trend. Even traditional activities can have health benefits. 

Skating on the Rideau Canal became a tradition in 1971.