Past Vs. Present fitness

Discussion in 'Health and Fitness' started by Hedphelym, Sep 12, 2009.

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  1. Just looking for some opinions following on from a conversation with a couple of friends the other day, was going to put this in the NAAFI but threw it in here.

    Basically, let's take the ideal of fitness from today - let's use the obvious example of a Very fit and robust, strong, soldier.
    Now, by todays standards, is he as 'fit' as those from the past? wether that be a caveman, spartan warrior, or whatever.

    I find this quite interesting. To be honest, I don't really have any knowledge on historical examples of fitness, or if they had actual "training programs" per se for soldiers, but certainly cavemen simply did things they needed to and the body adapted and got used to it, and their natural diet was varied and mixed and judged by the seasons.

    But on the other hand, today we have medical and physical knowledge. We have built up a catalouge of training exercises based on the knowledge we have to build strength and stamina, in what we percieve to be the best and safest ways. We have easy access to all kinds of food and liquid, and we have scientific intervention in the medium of supplements and sports drinks etc..

    I'm sure the example of the fittest soldier of today stood by the fittest spartan has been used before - But what do you guys think?

    Obviously, in general, thanks to modern living we are unfit people. But basically (without trying to confuse anybody) are the fit people of today as fit as the fit people of the past?

    Slighty random, and possibly deserves to be in the NAAFI, but wondering if there are any fitness gurus out there that want to share their opinions.
  2. What an interesting thread.........
  3. The whole of human history has been about finding better and more efficient ways to achieve outcomes. For (some) moderns to not be fitter than (most) ancients you'd need a very special argument as to why reason, research and planning don't work in this area when they work everywhere else. I remember reading something written by the old Jewish blokes who initially managed Mike Tyson, and who had bought up all the old black and white footage of the "boxing greats" of yesteryear. He said, "These guys were terrible". They wouldn't have lasted two seconds with a modern fighter.

    I doubt very much whether many Captain Cavemen could have benched 250lbs, never mind 400+. Some of them might have been decent runners, though, and I'll bet for sheer bloody-minded endurance they'd be quite good.
  4. You just have to look at the Roman Legions and what they did. They carried in weight, pretty much the same as the modern soldier, but this was not borne in bergans and webbing. They also had a daily tabbing distance, that would test most modern soldiers.

    Can't be arsed finding any links as I'm off down town, but there was a Discovery programme on it a couple of years ago IIRC.
  5. There are still hunter gatherer tribes about today living on pretty much the same diets and with the same level and type of physical activity as a 'caveman' would have done. They don't develop the kind of raw power of modern powerlifters, but they tend to maintain reasonably atheletic levels of bodyfat well into middle age and very rarely suffer from conditions like heart disease, diabetes or arthritis.

    Their exercise routine tends to involve short bursts of sprinting whilst hunting, climbing trees, and long periods of carrying the dead game back home over their shoulder. They tend to exercise a bit for entertainment through dancing and wrestling-like games.

    Spartans were mentioned. Sparta did have an organised system of training fitness and military skills called the Agoge.

    I'm pretty sure they had pushups and the like because the word 'callisthenics' comes from two Greek words, kallos and sthenos meaning 'beauty' and 'strength'. Perisan scouts watching Spartans in camp saw them doing them and were confused, thinking that the Spartans were doing some kind of weird dance.

    They did a lot of atheletics like javelin throwing, discus, gymnastics, running races, wrestling matches etc..

    They were also deliberately underfed and expected to learn how to sneak up on enemies by stealing food. The only crime here was getting caught in the act, and they would be punished. You learned to sneak about and pilfer food without anybody noticing, or beat up others to take their food, or you just got hungrier and more desperate until you worked it out.

    Spartans were also unique amongst the Greeks because they gave their women this training too, and women who passed a set of fitness and skills tests at the end of their education were given a lot more freedom and respect than women in a lot of other Greek cities. They were still expected to get married and have children though.
  6. Roman camps are spaced about 20 to 25 miles apart so it is safe to presume that they marched this distance in a day. They carried around 50lb of equipment on the whole compared to 80lb+ which the blokes are carrying in theatre at present. On campaign in new territory they'd have had to dig a defensive ditch at a temporary camp on halting. That would be worse then the march itself I should imagine. In training they had to march 20 miles in 5 hours at normal pace and 25 miles in 5 hours at tabbing pace carrying roughly 50lb. Harder than the current 8 mile CFT anyway!
  7. There was a lot of cavemen about while Iwas in , I don't know how fit they were but I wouldn't f*** with them.
    Ah, hometime at last
  8. human evolution and social antropology is fascinating...

    whilst romans, spartans etc may have been physically fine they would be no match for today's equivalent.

    sports science, training, diet, nutrition etc have all played their part in human performance as a result we have simply been getting bigger, stronger and fitter
  9. Bigger stronger and fitter maybe but for pure endurance of what to us would be really shitty conditions our early soldiers would leave most of us standing.
  10. I don't know if I agree to be honest. I can't see the human physical form evolving too much in 2000 years. True we live longer and are on average healthier but that is down to immunisations and modern medicine. If anything the modern human sedentary lifestyle will see humans becoming weaker in years to come.
  11. this is exactly why we've evolved at such an astonishing rate, particluarly in the past 100 years.

    1900 ave height for adult male 5'6", 2000 - 5'9"

    regarding sedentary lifestyle and contemporary evolution, some theorists think that this may see a evoltiuonary strand of its own and that fat idle, sickie munters will only breed with the same and fit strong healthy types likewise.

    this is the first time in british history when poorer working class people are fatter than their wealthier counterparts.
  12. Yes I was a bit out on the weight bit, but considering it wasn't carried in bergans designed to aid the person, I feel they had it rough. Not sure now though, whether they were fitter or stronger than now, just maybe their lifestyle and training from an early age helped more.

    I remember seeing a programme on it ages back. They took a group of individuals (I'm sure they were athletic, but not certain) and took them through the paces. Kit was carried in a piece of cloth, tied around the spear and slung over the shoulder. They also had the big shield to contend with and those sandles. I know I wouldn't want to do it in those conditions.
  13. It might be that an average person in Roman times was in quite a poor state, but if you have a big enough choice of people to recruit, you can still put together enough atheletic and tough people to do what they described. It doesn't necessarily mean their training or diet was better, it might just mean that they had high recruiting standards and plenty of potential recruits to pick from, and if you tried to apply it to modern people you'd just have a huge injury & failure rate.

    China doesn't win all those medals at the olympics because chinese people are inherently more atheletic, or because they know some better method of making people fit and strong, it's because they've got a massive pool of people to pick the best from.
  14. deleted double post :roll: