Gym

Students of Texas Woman's University practicing in their university gymnasium, 2011

A gymnasium, also known as a gym, is a covered location for gymnastics, athletics and gymnastic services. The word is derived from the ancient Greek gymnasium.[1] They are commonly found in athletic and fitness centres, and as activity and learning spaces in educational institutions. "Gym" is also slang for "fitness centre", which is often an area for indoor recreation.

Overview

Inside a gymnasium in Amsterdam

Gymnasia apparatus such as barbells, parallel bars, jumping board, running path, tennis-balls, cricket field, and fencing area are used as exercises. In safe weather, outdoor locations are the most conducive to health.[2] Gyms were popular in ancient Greece. Their curricula included Gymnastica militaria or self-defense, gymnastica medica, or physical therapy to help the sick and injured, and gymnastica athletica for physical fitness and sports, from boxing to dancing to skipping rope.[3]

Gymnasia also had teachers of wisdom and philosophy. Community gymnastic events were done as part of the celebrations during various village festivals. In ancient Greece there was a phrase of contempt, "He can neither swim nor write." After a while, however, Olympic athletes began training in buildings specifically designed for them. Community sports never became as popular among ancient Romans as it had among the ancient Greeks. Gyms were used more as a preparation for military service or spectator sports. During the Roman Empire, the gymnastic art was forgotten. In the Dark Ages there were sword fighting tournaments and of chivalry; and after gunpowder was invented sword fighting began to be replaced by the sport of fencing, as well as schools of dagger fighting and wrestling and boxing.[4]

Then in the 18th century, Salzmann, German clergyman, opened a gym in Thuringia teaching bodily exercises, including running and swimming. Clias and Volker established gyms in London, and in 1825, Doctor Beck, a German immigrant, established the first gymnasium in the United States. It was found that gym pupils lose interest in doing the same exercises, partly because of age. Variety in exercises included skating, dancing, and swimming. Some gym activities can be done by 6 to 8-year-olds while age 16 has been considered mature enough for boxing and horseback riding.[5]

In Ancient Greece, the gymnasion (γυμνάσιον) was a locality for both physical and intellectual education of young men. The latter meaning of intellectual education persisted in Greek, German and other languages to denote a certain type of school providing secondary education, the gymnasium, whereas in English the meaning of physical education pertained in the word 'gym'.[6] The Greek word gymnasium, which means "school for naked exercise," was used to designate a locality for the education of young men, including physical education (gymnastics, for example, exercise) which was customarily performed naked, as well as bathing, and studies. For the Greeks, physical education was considered as important as cognitive learning. Most Greek gymnasia had libraries that for use after relaxing in the baths.[citation needed]