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Exercise is any activity requiring physical exertion done for the sake of health. Activities range from walking and yoga to lifting weights and martial arts.
Regular exercise as a way of promoting health can be traced back at least 5,000 years to India, where yoga originated. In China, exercises involving martial arts, such as t'ai chi, qigong, and kung fu, developed possibly 2,500 years ago. The ancient Greeks also had exercise programs 2,500 years ago, which led to the first Olympic games in 776 B.C. Other exercise routines have been in use throughout Asia for hundreds of years.
Only within the last 100 years have the scientific and medical communities documented the benefits that even light but regular exercise has on physical and mental health.
The earliest forms of exercise stressed activities that involved stretching and light muscle resistance. Next came martial arts that promoted self-defense. In nearly all forms of Asian exercise routines, some type of meditation was a major component because the ancients believed physical and mental health went together. The ancient Greek and Roman civilizations advocated vigorous physical activity since exercise was associated with military training. The Greeks also believed that a healthy body would promote a healthy mind.
"Physical culture" was popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Medical journals showed exercise machines in the 1800s in Europe and North America. Although weight training became popular with a small number of people in the 1940s, it was not until the 1960s that regular exercise programs began to flourish throughout the United States. Gymnasiums, once used mainly by male weight lifters and boxers as training facilities, now are common throughout the United States. Today's gyms and health clubs offer a wide range of exercise activities for men and women that can fit every lifestyle, age group, and exertion level.
Author Info: Ken R. Wells, Teresa G. Odle, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2005
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