Happy 4th: Exercising Like the Founding Fathers

Happy 4th of July from all of us at Zims! We hope our customers in the US have a wonderful day with family and friends and perhaps get some fireworks watching in by the end of the day. As we began thinking about how we could celebrate this holiday in a way that could help us achieve our fitness goals we came across an article at menshealth.com that was too perfect not to share.  It is entitled ‘4 Ways People Stayed Fit in 1776’ by Will Levith, and it is quite fascinating! Underneath all those wigs and ascots the Founding Fathers found creative ways to exercise and keep fit- even Ben Franklin who is known for being on the portly side did his fair share of physical activity. 

When we see pictures of the men at the Continental Congress we get the impression they’d had no interest in sports when that is far from the truth. In fact, in the First Continental Congress they had to pass an agreement that the colonies would discontinue ‘and discourage every species of extravagance and dissipation, especially all horse racing, and all kinds of gaming…”  Riding appears to be a particular favorite activity of the group as well as fishing and even swimming (In the 1820s John Quincy Adams was famous for swimming in the Potomac each Summer morning).

Surprisingly there are also records of weight lifting (or the use of ‘dumb bells’) to exercise as early as 1711. According to Levith “these are quite different than the ones you’re familiar with today. ‘It would be like a cord on a pulley and a weight that you’d pull- kind of like a lat pull-down at a modern gym”

Everyone knows about the duels between gentleman of the era (especially with the popularity of Broadway shows like Hamilton) but boxing, sword duels, fencing and pistol shooting were also popular. Most of the time this fighting was friendly and for sport but it occasionally became deadly as in the case with Founding Father’s Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

The last aspect of exercise in the 1700s is more a necessity than an extra-curricular activity: it’s simply the exertion needed to exist in that era. An average person walked 3 to 8 miles a day in their various activities. Plus, chores like farming, housekeeping, cooking, laundering required 5 times the effort that it does today. Something we take for granted now like drinking a cup of milk required many steps to make a reality. We sometimes forget how much technology blesses are lives but hopefully those blessings don’t make us too lazy!

So, if you want to get into the true spirit of Independence Day try going for a walk instead of driving or maybe splurge and go horseback riding. You’ll have fun and connect with the past all at the same time!

What do you like to do to connect with the past and stay fit? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below

Happy 4th of July! 

 

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