Last year on the Zim’s blog we had a lot of fun ringing in the July 4th holiday with a look at what exercises the American Founding Fathers might have done to stay fit and healthy. These techniques include the time tested traditions of lifting dumbbells and dueling with friends and foes. Now this year for part 2 we thought it’d be fun to dive even deeper and discover more of what these brave men and women did to stay fit back in 1776! 


In 1824 the first gymnasium was built in New York but even before that gymnastics or ‘’manly exercises’’ were popular and included in school as part of physical education. These exercises are ‘’the forerunners of today’s dipping and chinning bars”. From the pictures it almost looks like a playground set you might see today with a rope and bars to swing and hang off of. 

One early gymnasium owner Professor Voelker advertised “two lessons will be given to each subscriber every week on Monday and Thursday or on Wednesday and Saturday from 7 to 9 o’clock”. The subscription costs for the professor’s training set back patrons 1 shilling for 1 month in the gymnasium and 1 guinea per lesson for 1 on 1 training.


Any students of Prof Voelker needed to learn to enjoy running. In fact he promised “If the pupil follows the prescribed rules and is not deterred by a little fatigue in the first 6 lessons, he will soon be able to run 3 English miles in 20 to 25 minutes.” Not too shabby if you ask me! He goes on to say that some of his clients “ have been able to run for 2 hours incessantly and without being much out of breath”

Horseback Riding

Thomas Jefferson was also famous for taking his daily ride on horseback over the 8 square miles of his home in Monticello. 

No matter what exercise they participated in the Founding Fathers believed in keeping fit and healthy. What from their workouts could you incorporate into your daily routine? How about working a little gymnastics into your workout? Try some running with a ledger to keep track of your steps? Maybe go horseback riding for a change? Either way it’s always fun to think about the past and all we can learn from it. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section

Happy Independence Day from all of us at Zim’s.