Exercise helps to keep body fit, flexible, toned-up and agile. A fit and agile body adds around five or more years to an average person’s life. If one exercises, all physiological systems like respiratory, nervous, skeleton, endocrine, blood circulation, etc., function perfectly well. A regular schedule of exercise keeps the metabolism in control, helps to burn extra calories, provides extra power when the body gets tired and thus works towards self-assurance and self-motivation. One hardly complains of stress and depression, which are two most common factors that cause various ailments and diseases, and lead to slow death, these days. Exercise results in a fit and happy being. In this regard, exercise can be defined as any physical activity that adds to the beauty of a person and thus keeps him or her disease-free.
The roots of physical activities can be traced back to the ancient times. Back then, our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. For their livelihood and protecting themselves from wild animals, they used to move from one place to another. Every day, they used to undertake physical activities like tree, rock and mountain climbing, swinging and swaying from one tree to another, swimming while crossing rivers and lakes, walking, running, hunting and digging soil to collect roots and underground, wild fruits and vegetables. All these physical activities were exercises which they did, unknowingly though, just like other animals of the forest.
Later, they learned the domestication of animals, animal rearing and farming. These activities were complemented by the discovery of fire. All these factors resulted into the beginning of settled life. Then, people established hamlets and villages near their fields, which were located mostly near the sources of water. Activities like preparing the land for farming, digging the wells and small canals from a nearby river to their fields, plowing, sowing, winnowing, harvesting, storing the crop in the store houses, selling it in the market, rearing animals for their milk and meat, preparing the feed for animals, grinding the grains and pulling water out from wells called for immense power, energy and cooperation among people. These activities were also a source of physical exercise. By then, the humans were involved in physical exercises derived by the need of livelihood and the call of community life or civilization. The other major cause of physical exercise was to protect themselves from wild animals and other groups of men, who were animus to those living a community life.
Gradually, new cities, towns and centers of powers, that is, the capital cities of big kingdoms, were developed. Kings started keeping the formal and professional armies to protect their citizens. As the knowledge about life increased, people’s actions towards living a meaningful life diversified. Their vocations changed and new ones were discovered. Some chose to become merchants and traders, while some chose the path of religion and spirituality, others became inventors, chemists, acrobats, artists, etc., and rest chose to remain livestock farmers and agriculturists. Due to such diversified vocations, the nature of physical exercises also underwent a complete change. Spiritual seekers went to forests and high mountains for meditation and started fasting and walking for miles and miles to deliver sermons, which was one kind of exercise. Army persons were trained for learning different techniques of warfare and use weapons. They had to take rigorous exercise, for an unfit soldier could prove futile and dangerous while defending the nation in the battlefield. Acrobats and artists had to do regular practice to perfect their art such as dancing, singing, hopping, jumping, rope walking, juggling, etc. Thus, they spent a lot of time in physical exercises and kept their bodies fit as a fiddle.
Hence, here we see that the cause of exercises did not remain the earning of livelihood or survival only, as was the case earlier. Acrobats, army persons and artists were amply rewarded by kings and queens for their performances. This motivated them to not only raise the standard of their art, but also remain physically fit to perform better every time.
By this time, games and sports activities had also developed as professional activities. In Greece, the kings had started organizing the Olympic Games. Professional athletes used to participate in these games after undergoing long and hard training. The games highlighted the spirit of sportsmanship. Athletes who were superior to others in physical strength and agility were amply rewarded. Their names were engraved on their stone statues so that the future generation could also come to know about their fitness and strength. All this was related to reputation and public recognition. Therefore, around the middle ages the cause of exercise and physical activities were changed to livelihood, survival and interest, name and fame, and of course reward.
In modern times, the life style of people completely changed. The direct involvement in activities that called for physical exercise became less day by day in big economic centres and metros. The number of service or tertiary sector jobs grew. Inventions of railroad and cars and other vehicles of transport added to the comfort of the body. The development of medical sciences led to discovery of medicines that helped people fight and win over the deadly diseases and aliments. The overall impact of these changes resulted into people become a little careless about exercise and physical activities. As their power to earn increased, people started to spend more money on the luxury and entertainment where their main task was to just sit and enjoy what was happening instead of doing the things by themselves. This led to the increase in the cases of obesity, which resulted in many new kinds of aliments and diseases such as problems related to high or low blood pressure, heart, kidney, brain and lever.
Thus, people started finding ways to minimize their stress and depression. Once again, they went back to exercising to keep the stress levels as low as possible and their bodies fit. Hence, new kinds of exercise techniques were invented such as aerobics, neo-yoga, power yoga, etc., to name a few. Here we see that in order to keep the aliments and diseases away, people turned towards exercises, although the causes mentioned earlier continued to attract people towards exercising. In addition, some people wanted to remain fit, slim, and had the desire to look handsome and muscular than others. They developed regular exercise as their most important habit.
Hence, we can conclude that people have different causes of doing exercises. They can vary from earning a livelihood to rewards, recognition, sportsmanship and athleticism, and the desire to keep their bodies fit and disease-free, as well to as look attractive and handsome.