What’s the History of Your Fave Fitness Routine?

You may be a yogi who does it three times a week. But do you know how the exercise came to be?

Whether you Battle the Bear or melt away the pounds in Tabata class, knowing about the history of your favorite exercise can enhance your appreciation of all the hard work. Enjoy this history lesson on current gym trends and classic exercise programs.


Yoga – Little is known about the origins of yoga. Evidence links it to ancient India, where early teachers of yoga taught students directly rather than writing down their techniques. These students practiced the discipline and developed many of yoga’s postures, breathing and meditation techniques. Yoga’s root themes were first vaguely expressed in Vedas – the first ancient Hindu texts – which are the earliest surviving writings of Indian thought. Written between 5000 and 2000 B.C., the Vedas recorded yoga themes like sacrifice, discipline and praise for virtue and beauty, but didn’t describe its techniques or methods.

jump rope

Jump rope – Sure, Rocky trained for boxing matches with one, but since the beginning of time, man has jumped roped to dance or play. The first evidence of rope jumping can be seen in medieval paintings, where children roll hoops and jump rope down European cobblestone streets. It’s thought that the Egyptians used vines for jumping in 1600 A.D.

CrossFit – CrossFit was officially founded by Greg Glassman and Laura Jenai in 2000, however, they conceived the idea a few years earlier. And maybe even earlier when Glassman was in high school where, as a gymnast, he learned that he could get stronger by just using dumbbells and a barbell rather than bodyweight only exercises. Over the years, he honed this type of strength and conditioning training and incorporated movements from a variety of disciplines, including gymnastics, weightlifting, sprinting/high-intensity work, etc. There is skepticism out there because many associate CrossFit with risk of injury. That is why it is important to make sure you go to a qualified gym with a certified instructor and never do something that hurts you (we are not talking about normal pain and strain that comes with building muscle). Today, there are the CrossFit Games and there are hundreds of CrossFit gyms across the United States.

Tabata – Tabata is a form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) where you do as many reps of an exercise (like burpees, mountain climbers, etc) as fast as you can for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds, then go hard again, then rest, etc. You do this eight times in four minutes. Why is it called Tabata? Well, we have Dr. Izumi Tabata, a professor at Ritsumeikan University in Japan and former National Institutes of Health researcher, to thank for that. He was hired by the Japanese speed skating team to analyze efficacy of the team’s training regimen. They were doing short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by even shorter resting periods. Dr. Tabata discovered that this intermittent style of training was actually highly effective because it maximally works both aerobic and anaerobic systems in much less time than regular exercise.


Pilates – Joseph H. Pilates was a frail child, suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. Seeking to overcome his illnesses, he conditioned his body through sports like skiing, diving and gymnastics. While he was working in England during World War I, Pilates developed the technique of exercising in a confined space. Later in the war, he worked with non-ambulatory patients in a hospital. There, he designed an exercise apparatus for his patients called the “Cadillac.” By attaching springs to hospital beds, it helped support their limbs while he was working with them. He opened a Pilates studio in the 1920s in New York City, and the exercise’s popularity grew by word of mouth. While the method has since evolved and integrated current biomechanical thinking, it remains rooted in the philosophy and movement patterns as designed by Pilates himself.


Aerobics – The word “aerobics” was coined by Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, a doctor in Texas, to describe a system of exercise he created to help prevent coronary artery disease. Cooper’s book about the system was published in the late 1960s. Later, aerobic dance was developed as a series of dance routines to improve cardiovascular fitness.


Kickboxing – Kickboxing does not come from Far Eastern countries like Thailand or Japan. Rather, it was developed from full-contact karate. During the mid 1970s, some American karate athletes wanted to be able to apply full-power kicks and punches in bouts fought to the knockout. With the invention of specialized protective equipment, so became the sport and exercise known as kickboxing.