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The evolution of exercise

Undoubtedly, there has been a significant change in attitude towards exercise. Until the 1960’s, most people in the U.K. were apathetic towards the idea of exercising regularly and few were aware of the health benefits. Most people led a physically active lifestyle and would have seen little reason to exercise for exercise sake.

Exercise was something most people thought of as part of the School curriculum, something to be left behind once adulthood arrived, to ‘grow old gracefully’. The general attitude was that exercise was fine if you were a sports person or an athlete, but for the man in the street (women and exercise were considered even less compatible), exercise was seen as an irrelevance.

With the impact of the motorcar, labour saving devices in the home, television and more sedentary occupations, it gradually became apparent that inactivity brought with it an increased risk of Obesity, Heart disease, diabetes, thrombosis, stroke, hypertension and even osteoporosis. For the first time, people began to consider their lifestyle with many resolving to become more active.

With more money to spend on themselves, the concept of slimness, looking good and feeling good gradually became important issues in people’s lives. Yet another reason to exercise more.

During the 60’s and 70’s, came awareness that ‘exercise is good for you’. By the 80’s, Tracksuits and Trainers were no longer the clothing of sportsmen, but were the in way to dress. Suddenly, exercise was fashionable.

Despite peoples changing attitudes to exercise however, the Government were acutely aware that the cost of inactivity to the NHS budget was continuing to rise. Research showed clearly the correlation between regular exercise and a reduction in vascular diseases, so in 1991, the Government commissioned the Allied Dunbar National Fitness Survey to identify for the first time, exactly how much exercise the nation was taking. The result was a depressing surprise.

In spite of the very real change in public attitudes towards exercise, very few were actually taking the medicine. The survey showed that 83% of the adult population were taking less than the minimum exercise requirement to make any significant impact on their health! 

Today, more than 50% of the adult population are overweight and the figure is rising. Though most people now think that exercise is a great idea, actually getting around to doing it themselves is quite another matter.