June 9


Hitting the Gym in the Victorian Era

Everybody is talking about what the Victorians ate and wore, but no one really wonders what  people did to keep fit. 

“But the gym is a modern invention!” I hear you protest! Well wrong!

Imagine being a Lady or a gentleman at the prime of your youth, nice and slender. Everything seems perfect on you, right? 

Hmm yes, until you start paying your social calls and attend dinners. 

Where do you think all these calories would go? Would simply walking around the gardens suffice to burn off the excessive fats of the gravy and cakes? 

Well the Victorians did live in a different era, not an alternate reality..!

But how is this possible, Violet? I hear you ask. Did they really have the proper equipment so early in the day to create gyms?

Thanks to Dr Gustav Zander -a crazy, ahem- Swedish physician, humanity was blessed with the notion of exercise machines as soon as the 19th century. 

One would argue that exercise machines make working out easier and faster, right?

I think you should be the ones to judge that by taking a look at some of the popular equipment of the day:

1. What do you think of this bizarre contraption?

Thankfully, the metal head piece keeps you in place, so that you can’t escape..err stop exercising I mean! 

I can’t really say that I see the functionality here, but who am I to judge? Let’s keep looking!

2. Well I don’t really understand what he is doing there, but he is definitely not having a good time!

He does resemble me trying to do yoga though. Trust me, you don’t want to know how that went…

3. Children from rich families used these machines to help build up their muscles… Well, talk about child abuse! Can you even imagine having your kids on there to exercise? Mine for one thing would break the thing by hopping on it! Or fall asleep...

It looks more like a crooked bed to me to be honest! 

4. Well ladies? What do you say about working out in a corset and full dress? It seems that for the Victorians sweating -or breathing for that matter- is for the weak, but I would definitely prefer to do whatever the second lady is doing. Looks like a nice massaging machine.

5. Hmm, these last ones don’t look so bad. If you overlook the fact that they are fully dressed in petticoats and tight pants, their expressions are almost as desperate as mine when I hit the exercise bike! 

Weell what do you say? Torture instruments or a healthy way of exercise? 

Dr Zander opened the first sports hall in Stockholm in 1865, the Zander Institute, which offered both bodybuilding and rehabilitation services for men and women. And it was so popular that by 1911 there were more than 300 sports halls bearing his name throughout the world.

His workout instruments were even found on the Titanic. Well this is what I call a success story!

If you ask me, I would pick the modern gym any day 😛

Or better...Walking! Walking is good enough exercise for me!

Till next time, keep walking! 🙂

Written by Violet Hamers!


Articles, Regency Romance

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  • Another fascinating look into the past. Very interesting looking machinery but fully clothed??? The first one looks a bit like a postural corrector. Who knew the gym was invented that long ago. I am thankful that we do not have to go in full dress, let alone corsetted! Thanks, Violet!


  • They don’t look very cozy, some look like torture, but if they worked more power to them, some today look the same.


  • Most of them do look like torture especially the first one. Last two do have some sembalance to our updated machines today but still uncomfortable looking. Never really thought about them working out back then


    • I feel the same Laura! I wouldn’t believe it myself, if there weren’t the pictures to prove it! Thank you for your comment!


  • Yikes!! They really look like torture machines & the faces on the participants tell a lot! As for going to the gym, not for me although I do have an exercise bike & treadmill at home in the back room, devices that I don’t use very often. I guess exercising on a machine is better than no exercise at all.


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