Monday, 16 January 2017

Fitness: Activity in History part 3

It was all going along well. Sport and play had their place in the calendar. Activities were evolving, some were enjoyed by the working people, some by the nobles and some by both. Then along came the Puritans. 

It wasn’t as if the Puritans disapproved of activity, they just felt that labour should provide that kind of outlet. This was the mindset that they took with them when they set off for the New World so it is natural that this attitude of looking down on play would have caught on in the 13 colonies. Even in Britain, which saw the restoration of the monarchy after Puritan ascendancy in the era of Cromwell, the previous exposure to Puritan attitudes held some of the more outrageous play in check. To be acceptable sport had to be cleansed of racy language, dishonesty and immorality. But play for the lower classes was soon to be curtailed even more. 
With the growth of industry brought about by the Industrial Revolution, time for play all but disappeared, at least for the working classes. Work took most of their waking hours. There was no time or energy left for play. 


Brailsford, Dennis. British Sport: A Social History, The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, 1992.

Wiggins, David K. Sport in America: From Colonial Leisure to Celebrity Figures and Globalization. Human Kinetics, Champaign, Il. 2010

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Fitness: Activity in History part 2

Centuries in the past, life was often brutal and short. In hard times, efforts concentrated on survival; the struggle for food and shelter sometimes took all the energy that people had. But not always. Sometimes there was time for play, time to run and dance, time to show off physical prowess. 

Was this a way to attract members of the opposite sex? Maybe that was part of it but religion also played a part. In Mesoamerica playing the game of ball was an act that related to their mythology. In some cases, this could be taken to extremes with the losing team’s captain, or even the whole team, being sacrificed at the end of the game. There’s winning incentive for you. 

The Olympic Games in Ancient Greece also had a religious background. The city states competed with each other to honour Zeus and the origin of the games was attributed to the gods.

In the western world religion also played a part in the sporting calendar. In Britain, the medieval sporting year began at the time of the spring fertility rituals and games were played on holy days, which were the only times that most people were free from work. Some activities like animal baiting are associated with the period, but others that were popular in medieval times are still around today. Think of bowls, wrestling, tug-of-war, football and tennis. Many other sports have their original far in the past as well. These include ball games similar to those of the Maya and traditional Olympic games such as discus throwing, running and chariot racing.  


Brailsford, Dennis. British Sport: A Social History, The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, 1992.

The Ball Game of Mesoamerica