Who Invented Gymnastics?
By Brittany Rogers
Some experts believe that the sport of gymnastics is thousands of years old. In fact, some historians believe its roots may go back over 4,000 years! They think gymnastics likely evolved from exercises the ancient Greeks developed to improve skills for the mounting and dismounting of horses. In ancient Greece, gymnastics encompassed many forms of athletic activity. This included running, wrestling and physical fitness routines. Each city had a gymnasium where these exercises took place. Gymnastics also included discus throwing, and hand to hand fighting. It wasn’t so much a sport yet as it was a fitness training program. In 1569, Girolamo Mercuriale, an Italian philogist and physician, who received his doctorate in 1555, wrote Le Arte Gymnastica, which brought together his study of the attitudes of the ancient Greeks toward diet, exercise and hygiene, and the use of natural methods for the cure of disease. He was later asked to occupy the Chair of Medicine in 1569. Le Arte Gymnastica also explained the principles of physical therapy and is considered the first book on sports medicine. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Germany, two pioneer physical educators, Johann Friedrich GutsMuths and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn created exercises for boys and young men on apparatus they had designed that ultimately led to what is considered modern gymnastics.