What did people in the Medieval Ages do to Workout?

Patrick Otte, Writer

People have been moving to survive since the beginning of time, and it feels good to move. Nowadays, studies on the benefits of exercise are everywhere. There are so many variations of exercise it’s almost scary. Whether you like to run, lift, hike, or play a sport you can probably find a way to participate in what you enjoy. For many people, exercise has been integrated into our everyday life without even thinking, but we never think back to the origins of exercise. Imagine what people did during the Medieval Ages to work out.

Peasants worked to stay alive, and that was their exercise. Tending to fields, chopping wood, and walking several miles a day may have been the daily exercise of a Peasant. Peasants did a lot of work that today is done by machines. Laundry, butter churning, and chopping wood were completed by hand. Those tasks take real muscles to accomplish. Both male and female peasants worked alongside each other for long hours every day. 

Both men and women rode horses to travel long distances. Horseback riding is an arduous workout. If they could not afford a horse, or travel by horseback was not possible, people walked. People back then walked a lot more than the average person today. 

It was expected of men to become familiar with a weapon, even if a fighter was not his trade. Bowmen loosed shafts for hours a day to be ready when duty called. A knight or soldier may spar, and do physical training like trail-running, lifting stones, or wrestling to prepare for battle. Some Knights lived for organized fights like jousts, and gladiator-like sparring arena fights. Never seeing real war. 

Tradesmen’s work was typically their exercise. Blacksmiths worked the forge for hours a day, sculpting a body where one side was larger than the other due to beating the anvil with their dominant arm. Merchants traveled the world by foot, or by horse to have their goods showcased in various locations. 

The stereotype that the gentry was in worse physical condition than the peasantry is partly untrue. The gentry were people of good social position who were relatively wealthy. They were next below the nobility. Yes, the gentry had access to a greater variety, and mass of food but they still found ways to exercise. Keep in mind that the Gentry exercised for leisure, they were not forced to exercise for their own survival like peasants. 

When men reached a certain nobility they were required to have a sword upon them at all times, and know-how to wield it. Kings went on organized hunts, and noblemen participated in lead exercises such as sparring, or wrestling if they wished. Women in the gentry were typically not as active as men, as they did not participate in combat training. Women participated in physical activity such as horseback riding, gardening, and falconry. Falconry is the sport of training falcons, and other birds of prey to hunt game. 

For the peasantry, people worked out to stay alive. The gentry exercised in organized activities, or for leisure. Craftsmen exercised depending on their trade. While soldiers trained for the worst. What was considered exercise in the Medieval ages really depended on your social class, and what your profession was. 

The next time you exercise think to yourself how fortunate you are to have the knowledge of how important exercise is to your overall well being. People worked out in the middle ages for the sake of survival, or if they had the leisure time to exercise. People back then knew it felt good to move, and now we know that exercise does so much more than make us feel good.

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