Office aerobics c.1917

It’s not unusual for people to think that today’s vices are worse than anything we’ve seen before in history, but this is plainly nonsense. Paleolithic cave-dwellers were just as worried about food security as we are today and Victorians worried about the accelerating pace of life as much, perhaps even more, than we do today. Certainly people’s circumstances are different, but many of the same existential fears persists. And one common anxiety for desk-bound office workers is with postural problems caused by prolonged sitting.

Did you know that the treadmill was originally invented as a punishment device to make prisoners work, sometimes aimlessly, so that they would not revolt? Interesting that some people are advocating for these to be put in offices now to prevent prolonged sitting.
In 1917, there were similar anxieties about the ill effects of prolonged sedentary postures, as this lovely gallery from the Public Review site show.
And in this gallery we see some of the domestic gymnastics recommended to men and women to keep themselves fit and well, and compensate for the effects of the mental work that had replaced manual labour.

Posted by Dave Nicholls

Dr. Nicholls is an Associate Professor in the School of Public Health and Psychosocial Studies, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand. He is a physiotherapist, lecturer, researcher and writer, with a passion for critical thinking in and around the physical therapies. David is the founder of the Critical Physiotherapy Network, an organisation that promotes the use of cultural studies, education, history, philosophy, sociology, and a range of other disciplines in the study of the profession’s past, present and future. David’s own research work focuses on the critical history of physiotherapy and considers how physiotherapy might need to adapt to the changing economy of health care in the 21st century. He has published 35 peer-reviewed articles and 17 book chapters, many as first author. He is also very active on social media, writing more than 500 blogposts for criticalphysio.net in the last three years. David has taught in physiotherapy programmes in the UK and New Zealand for over 25 years and has presented his work all around the world. The End of Physiotherapy – the first book-length critical history of physiotherapy, and written by David – was published by Routledge in mid-2017.

  1. Joan McMeeken 23/01/2019 at 9:30 am

    What an amazing series of photographs in the Physical Training for Businessmen. Strength training, wrestling and boxing were highly favoured by professional men in Victoria, Australia in the first few decades of the twentieth century. Weber and Rice who promulgated exercise for men and women in Melbourne, became early physiotherapists and spawned a multigenerational dynasty of physiotherapists

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