Healthy Lifestyles: Exercise, Sport and Health

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Cradle to Grave Lecture 8. Themes. New ideas of health and exercise cultures from Victorian . period. Largely voluntary and commercial – little state involvement. For men emerge mid-19. th. century, women late 19. ID: 735605 Download Presentation

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Healthy Lifestyles: Exercise, Sport and Health

Cradle to Grave Lecture 8. Themes. New ideas of health and exercise cultures from Victorian . period. Largely voluntary and commercial – little state involvement. For men emerge mid-19. th. century, women late 19.

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Healthy Lifestyles: Exercise, Sport and Health

Cradle to Grave Lecture 8



New ideas of health and exercise cultures from Victorian


Largely voluntary and commercial – little state involvement

For men emerge mid-19


century, women late 19


– fused with Empire/Imperial concerns

Physical culture

movement – endures till 2WW

Physical education

at school

Health education – diet, hygienic citizenship


different stages of life cycle in different eras – men and boys, women and girls, middle aged and most recently elderly men and women


Life cycle and fitness


Sport as remedial health – school as early site of exercise and sport

Debates about mind and body, over-pressure and moderation – late 19






corpore sano


Sport, public schools and gender

Muscular Christianity and regulated games – ethos of public school – character building e.g. Thomas Arnold at Rugby. Godliness = manliness (cricket, football, rugby, fencing). Preparation for role as rulers of



Importance of team sports – character building

Filter down social class – football, rugby – to produce physical improvement in ‘degenerate populations’.

Sport is laden with rituals, symbols and preconceptions which reinforce certain social values – initially seen as masculine, ideal woman antithetical to sport.

Women’s entry to sport significant part of general movement for female emancipation and demands for equality.


Women and exercise

Towards end of 19


century women take up range of new sports, gymnastics and exercise.

Debates on suitability – many centre on health as well as etiquette and appropriateness.

Exercise cultures in home – promoted in health advice literature for women and

girls (housework also framed as exercise).

Girls schools actively promote healthful activities – gymnastics, games and sport, as well as training in domestic science and lectures on health.

New literature for women – advice literature, magazines and periodicals advise on exercise as means of improving health and physique and beauty.



Adopted in schools, including elementary schools for girls (Martina Bergman Ősterberg

appointed to London School Board to promote exercise in schools, later sets up first training college for PE for girls in Dartford)

Private gymnasia for girls set up and promoted in girls’ magazines.


Girl’s Realm

magazine advised ‘modern girls’ to pay weekly visit to gym.


Cycling for health

1880s onwards cycling increased in popularity – cycle craze of mid-1890s (1.5 million cyclists in UK, 1898 2,000 cycle clubs, by 1896 one-third women’s cycles)

Moved from being aristocratic sport, to middle-class and as cycles became cheaper working class.

Concerns about cyclists and impact on health:

accidents, overstrain, infection of bladder, overtaxing muscles, hernias, nervous disorders – disorders such as ‘bicycle hand’, ‘cyclists spine’ and vibration and fatigue fever.

for women also concerns about damage to reproductive organs though this was short-lived.

(Modern Records Centre at Warwick has National Cycle Archive)


Cycling and risk

Concern that cycling would lead to deterioration in female character – over-athleticism, loss of femininity and mere muscular achievement (‘Bicycle face’)

Dangers of competition and racing, over-exertion

By turn of century recognition that cycling beneficial for boosting

health -

improved ‘nerves

’, prevented hysteria, good for

anaemia, improved circulation and digestion, etc.



exercise equipmentSwedish physician and inventor of therapeutic exercise regime and machines.

New equipment entered home – middle-class consumption of health products


Health in Moderation

Ideas of ‘moderation’ important for both sexes, but especially women and girls (fixed fund of energy!), yet sport recommended on grounds of health:

‘Archery improves the chest, throws back the shoulders, thus improving the figure, and develops the muscles… Croquet has improved the health and happiness of womankind more than any game before invented…. ‘ (Dr





Advice to a Mother

, 1889).Exercise according to educator Ernest Lowe ‘The young women of to-day are finer to look at, straighter, taller, more wholesome looking, than were those of thirty years ago… The girl who formerly was lackadaisical and languid – never absolutely ill… but never at the same time entirely well, always suffering from some trifling ailment, which made her and every one with whom she came into contact miserable – becomes literally a “new woman”’. (

Chambers’ Journal, 1899).Also character building – especially team sports.


Physical culture

Entrepreneurs – physical culturists (e.g.



, Eugene



Coincided with revival of Olympic Games early 20th centurySandow built physical training empire – settled England 1897. Institute of Physical Culture, magazines and books – ‘educator and savior-by-example’ in improving physical stock of deteriorating nations (Dorothy Porter)

Lobbied Education Dept (George Newman) to adopt his system in schools – but Ling method (from Sweden) widely taken up by late 19th century in schoolsMacFadden American physical culturist, but influential in UK – publishing empire (Physical Culture). Proponent of fasting to increase strength


Eugene Sandow

– showman and body builder

Institutes of Physical Culture and book



Physical Culture Creed, c.1934


Physical Culture


Health and Beauty

Relationship established early 20


C between health and beauty, and character for women and


: ‘there can be no beauty without health’ (Dr Gordon Stables, 1891); ‘No amount of “making up” can replace the glow of health in a clean skin, the gloss of well-nourished hair, and the full development of trained muscles. The girl who would be attractive to look upon must be good throughout’ (Amy Barnard, 1909); ‘If a girl sits down to a potato and pickles, strong tea, pies, cakes, ices, and fiery condiments, she will not hold her beauty. As a result, when the girl is twenty her eyes are dull, teeth yellow, gums pale, lips wan, flesh flaccid, and skin unyielding. Recourse is had to padding, face washes, stains and belladonna (article in

Good Health


1895). Hygiene, diet, exercise and good character all connected – responsibility for health and body management.


Ideas of health and the healthy body

Health crazes, mass health cultures – also upheld Imperial ideology

Yet largely non-state – commercial and voluntary


Health education campaigns addressed via organisations like New Health Society (1925), Sunlight League (1924), vegetarian movement, nudism, as well as campaigns via advice literature, newspapers (e.g.

Daily Mail


and film. Health exhibitions, health weeks and public talks. Healthy eating, living and exercise becoming ‘industrial complex’‘Physical culture patriotism’ endured until 2ndWW (physical fitness, dietary reform, hygiene, alternative healing, dress reform, sun bathing, hiking, etc.)

More leisure, rising affluence, reduced hours of work, holidays – entitlement to leisure


New Health Society

Founded Sir William


Lane 1925

To convert a rapidly degenerating community into a nation of ‘healthy, vigorous members’

Social Darwinism, ideas of national fitness and eugenics combined with utopian body practices and progressive gender ideology


Largely ignored relationship between poverty and ill health – emphasised character and self-discipline ‘managing the body’ – unrest and discontent among workers due to lowered condition of health and vitality.

Very ‘political’ organisation


Sir William Arbuthnot

Lane (1856-1943)

Health rules – diet, fresh air, sunlight, loose clothing (dress reform), personal hygiene and exercise. Theory of auto-intoxication.

Birth control (Marie




Rout members (racial health))

New Health Society folder 1937 with Lane’s retirement, though journal New Health continued.


Physical education

Since late 19


C attempts to provide PE in schools (largely drill).

Seen as means of ameliorating impact of urban life – also undertook school journeys and holidays (supported by Education Authorities, LEAs) and Camp Schools.

Belief gymnastics/sport could relieve health problems (from flat feet and curvature of spine to general health/ability to resist disease and mental ‘backwardness’) – shift from environment to personal health. Cheap way of improving children’s health.

1920s particularly significant – physical education became ‘the supreme method of medicine in behalf [


] of the normal school child’ (George Newman). Also intended to ‘mask’ problems of malnutrition in children.



British tradition of games playing cf. continental dictatorships – voluntary and amateur.

Responding to idea of having physical education talks on radio,

Sunday Times

wrote in 1926 ‘What next! Shall we have State breakfast hints, or tooth-cleaning drill, or possibly Government golf. We may be a C3 nation, but at least we preserve our individuality’.

Expenditure on PE at schools modest and facilities poor – lack of playing fields and other facilities.

Voluntary organisations like

Scouts (1907) and Guides (1910), boys and girls clubs,

Youth Hostel Association, Ramblers Association promote exercise and outdoor pursuits. Though had imperial designs, also set up to promote health and inclusiveness.


Women’s League of Health and

Beauty, launched 1930 Mary Bagot Stack and daughter Prunella

Membership 100,000 by

1939 (‘keep fit’, racial health, physical culture and fun and friendship)


State involvement

George Newman, Chief Medical Officer – Central Council for Health Education (Society Medical Officers of Health) 1927

Better Health


Local authorities organise Health Weeks and lectures but much of this activity remains voluntary

1937 Physical Training and Recreation Act – established local authority facilities, particularly sports grounds (after 1936 Berlin Olympics

!) – yet little money put into establishment of services


Health and sport – 2

nd half of 20th century

Second phase of growth in culture of getting fit in 1980s – aerobic exercise, fitness training.

Healthy body is ‘a social map of economic power’ (still associated with responsibility and social duty – ‘elite citizenship’ according to Dorothy Porter)

White Paper,

Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation

(1999) argues ‘good physical education and school sports provision essential to the foundation of lifelong positive attitudes towards health and fitness’.

Sport for girls said to increase confidence, reduce incidence of eating disorders and even unplanned pregnancies.

Still concept of national fitness

? Who responsible – state, individuals, voluntary organisation?



Many aspects of sport and exercise cultures in 20thC deep-seated political connections

Relationship with gender and particularly women’s emancipation

Sport and exercise promoted as


ey aspect of building blocks of health

Harnessed media and commerce

Limited role for state – despite fact largely about nation’s health

Connects to ideas of ‘modernity’