Eighteenth Century Exercise

In the Georgian era strenuous exercise seems to have been something predominantly undertaken by the men,  with the main form of exercise for women at that time being around deportment.

morning-post-5-may-1825
Morning Post 5 May 1825

Exercise for men was highly recommended! The benefits, according to Professor Voelker, who established his first gymnasium in May 1825, were the obvious one of improved fitness, but also that weak and sick persons recovered their health and these exercises were, perhaps, the only effectual remedy that could have been found for their complaints. The judgement of physicians, in all places where these exercises were introduced, concurred in their favourable effect upon health; and parents and teachers uniformly testified, that by them their sons and pupils, like all other young men who cultivated them, had become more open and free, and more graceful in their deportment.

A subscription to Professor Voelker’s gymnasium was:

1 shilling for one month

2 shillings and 10 pence for 3 months

4 shillings for six months

6 guineas for twelve months.

For one to one tuition, the charge was a guinea per lesson.

Exercises included the following:

Running for a length of time, and with celerity. If the pupil follows the prescribed rules, and is not deterred by a little fatigue in the first six lessons, he will soon be able to run three English miles in from twenty to twenty-five minutes. Some of Mr. V.’s pupils have been able to run for two hours incessantly, and without being much out of breath.

Leaping in distance and height, with and without a pole. Every pupil will soon convince himself to what great the strength of the arms, the energy of the muscles of the feet, and good carriage of the body, are increased by leaping, particularly with a pole. Almost every one learns in a short time to leap his own height, and some of the pupils have been able to leap ten or eleven feet high. It is equally easy to learn to leap horizontally over a space three times the length of the body; even four times that length has been attained.

Climbing up masts, ropes, and ladders. Every pupil will soon learn to climb up a mast, rope, or ladder of twenty-four feet high; and after six months’ exercise, even of thirty-four or thirty-six feet. The use of this exercise is very great in strengthening the arms.

The exercises on the pole and parallel bars, serve in particular to expand the chest, to strengthen the muscles of the breast and small of the back, and to make the latter flexible. In a short time, every pupil will be enabled to perform exercises of which he could not have thought himself capable, provided that he does not deviate from the prescribed course and rules.

Vaulting, which is considered one of the principal exercises for the increase of strength, activity, good carriage of the body, and courage, which employs and improves the powers of almost all arts of the body, and has hitherto always been taught as an art by itself, is brought to some perfection in three months.

Fencing with the broad sword throwing lances, wrestling, and many other exercises.

Brown, Mather; Henry Angelo; National Portrait Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/henry-angelo-155314
Henry Angelo by Mather Brown; National Portrait Gallery, London

In 1826 Professor Voelker opened a second gymnasium, so the first must have proved very popular.

19-aug-1826-london-courier-and-evening-gazette
19 Aug 1826 London Courier and Evening Gazette

Should you prefer to exercise alone then perhaps this machine would suit you needs better.

A man sitting inside a large wooden frame holding on to straps as the wheels turn. Engraving by J. Walker c1798
A man sitting inside a large wooden frame holding on to straps as the wheels turn. Engraving by J. Walker c1798

If you suffer from gout then here we have a satirical image for exercise to improve the condition.

Satirical aquatint - exercise for gout. Paul Sandby. Wellcome Library
Satirical aquatint – exercise for gout. Paul Sandby. Wellcome Library

Sources 

The Every Day Book: Or, A Guide to the Year Volume 1 by William Hone

Featured Image by George Cruikshank

5 thoughts on “Eighteenth Century Exercise

  1. and of course the noble art of pugilism; when I was researching this, to reference a fight or two, I found a throwaway comment that some ladies were taught boxing, in private of course, as a means of keeping fit, and I raised an eyebrow at that but for what it’s worth I throw it at you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sarah Murden

      Of course pugilism too 🙂 We have written about female boxers, but as to whether in those cases they were taught the noble art as such we may never know 🙂

      Like

  2. Have you come across Healthful Sports for Young Ladies by Mademoiselle St. Sernin published in translation by Ackermann in 1822.

    The preface outlines the books purpose;

    “The most eminent physicians dwell particularly upon the necessity there is for young ladies, as they advance towards womanhood, to take active and regular exercise; and to avoid, as much as possible, all sedentary amusements.”

    It contains descriptions of various games, and beautiful illustrations.

    In addition I have various books of advice for young ladies, they all contain detail different types of exercise that girls and young women should use.

    Liked by 1 person

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