Physical fitness has always been an important part of life. It is theorized that when people left a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and formed fixed communities based around agriculture that physical fitness levels declined. This is not to say that levels of physical labor decreased but that the type of work undertaken was not necessarily as conducive to a general level of fitness. As such, regimented fitness regimes were either invented or became more common. This was especially the case in classical civilizations such as Ancient Greece and Rome. In Greece, physical fitness was considered to be an essential component of a healthy life and it was the norm for men to frequent a gymnasium. Physical fitness regimes were also considered to be of paramount importance in a nation’s ability to train soldiers for an effective military force. Partly for these reasons, organized fitness regimes have been in existence throughout known history and evidence of them can be found in many countries.

Gymnasiums which would seem familiar today began to become increasingly common in the 19th century. The industrial revolution had led to a more sedentary lifestyle for many people and there was an increased awareness that this had the potential to be harmful to health. This was a key motivating factor for the forming of a physical culture movement, especially in Europe and the USA. This movement advocated increased levels of physical fitness for men, women, and children and sought to do so through various forms of indoor and outdoor activity, and education. In many ways, it laid the foundations for modern fitness culture.