The Long & Storied History of Gyms

In this day and age, gyms are so popular and common that almost any city or town has at least one. When you’re preparing to go visit your local gym and fitness center in Vacaville, CA, you likely don’t think much about how it came to be that they are so popular. But the history of gyms is pretty long and quite interesting. If you’d like to know more about it, keep reading!

What is the history of gyms?

You could be a fitness veteran that knows all the dos and don’ts of gym etiquette, someone who is trying to get back into exercising, or even someone who never stepped foot into a fitness center. Whichever category you fall into, you likely know or can imagine what a gym looks like.

The question is has it always been the same or have such spaces changed and transformed with time? Where does the name even come from? Have the gyms always been publicly available? Let’s see!

The origin of the name

The definition of a gym is that it’s a closed space whose purpose is physical training. While health club and fitness center are considered to be broader terms, they are often used interchangeably.

The word itself is derived from the ancient Greek word ‘gymnasium’. Ancient Greek gymnasium was similar to today’s gym in at least one way - it was a place to work on staying physically fit and strong. The literal translation would be something like “a school for naked exercise”. True to the name, they were places where young men could train without any clothing.

Ancient Greeks weren’t as shy about nudity as we are today. Interestingly, back then, a gymnasium was also a place for intellectual education, not just physical. That explains why the word itself is still in use in some European countries to describe a kind of secondary education school.

Before ancient Greece

Even though the word is derived from an ancient Greek one, the first recorded gym dates back to 3000 years ago in ancient Persia. These fitness facilities were called ‘zurkhaneh’. And even though there’s no record of it, you can guess that spaces to exercise physical fitness existed for even longer than that.

However, in times long past, athletic centers weren’t public and commercial as we know them today. Athletic training was in most cases reserved strictly for men, and not even all men. Physical training was something connected to the military in most cases. The harsh conditions and hard manual labor common folk had to endure ensured they didn’t truly need other training.

Commercial gyms

A fun fact about gyms is that the public ones first appeared in Germany in the nineteenth century. Not long after, the same thing happened in the UK. This time they were available to a wider audience, although still seen as something only men would ever need.

Through colonization, Great Britain expanded its interest in sports and physical training as a part of everyday life. Soon, the public accepted that way of thinking. Physical education was even added to school curriculums.

Approach to exercise

As living conditions changed so did the approach to physical training. It didn’t take long for people to feel the need for specific places where they could work on their physical capabilities, for health reasons and to make their lives easier if nothing else. 

People started exercising without outside pressure, and not just in gyms. If you visit Lagoon Valley Park today, you’ll see many people hiking, biking, and doing various other workout activities. The motivation behind working out shifted. 

Original gyms may first have been reserved mostly for the military, and then their purpose was educational. While those are still the reasons some gyms exist, health centers as we know them today cater to a wide variety of members and physical activity requirements.

What is the best local gym and fitness in Vacaville, CA?

If you’re looking for a fitness center that offers many different exercising options and plans, Maximum Fitness sounds like the right choice for you. Skilled and professional fitness instructors with years of experience that work with us can offer anything from advice to making a specific plan for you or even guiding you through your whole fitness journey.