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August 5, 2016

21 Fascinating Photos That Show the "World's First Fitness Machines" Used From the 1890s

Today, working out and exercising has become a way of life. Pictures from the gym, from races and fun-runs, of personal trainers and exercise retreats now fill the timelines and news-feeds of social media. But the way in which we exercise also reflects the development of technology. The gyms of today have developed from a prototype designed by Doctor Gustaf Zander more than 150 years ago.

Zander was born in Stockholm in 1835. In 1857, when working as a gymnastics teacher, he realised that he didn’t have enough time or energy to teach all of his students properly. His solution was to build a number of appliances made of wood, which he equipped with weights, levers and springs to provide a force of resistance. Each person was individually instructed by Zander on how long they should use each piece of equipment – in much the same way as today’s personal trainers organise an exercise programme. To begin with, these fitness machines were manually operated by muscle power. From 1868, however, steam engines were added to the gymnastic apparatus and, in the 1890s, these were replaced by electric motors.

The first Zander Institute opened in Stockholm in 1865. The Institute could be used by both women and men, who came for exercise, strength-training and for rehabilitation. The gym was divided into two separate sections, where women exercised in corsets and stays, while the men wore waistcoats and suits. The Zander Institutes were successfully exported worldwide. In 1911, there were 300 Zander Institutes around the world. Even on the Titanic, there was an exercise room featuring Zander’s gymnastic apparatus.

These interesting-looking contraptions, created by pioneer Dr Gustav Zander, were photographed in 1892.

(Images: DigitaltMuseum)


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