Cambridgeshire

'Manly exercise' manual found at Cambridge college

British Manly Exercises Image copyright Cambridge University
Image caption British Manly Exercises was a gentleman's guide to getting in shape

A 19th Century manual of "Manly Exercises" found in a college's archive shows a surprisingly "forward-thinking" attitude, researchers have said.

The British Manly Exercises guide was written by Donald Walker in 1834.

It urges gentlemen to move for up to 24 miles a day, and to opt for a diet of lean meat, stale bread, and biscuits.

A spokesman for St John's college, Cambridge, said it echoed health concerns which would be shared by a modern audience.

"Even in the 1830s, there was plenty of discussion about obesity, fad dieting, the relationship between exercise and mental wellbeing, and the fact that technology might be making us all a bit lazier," he said.

The book is understood to have been aimed at wealthy readers who lived sedentary lifestyles - as opposed to members of the working classes who often toiled away doing back-breaking labour.

It tells readers exercise has the potential to "prolong life and improve its happiness" and can combat and prevent ailments.

However, some of the advice contained within - such as the instruction to drink half a pint of wine after dinner - is not echoed by 21st Century health experts.

Image copyright Cambridge University
Image caption Donald Walker said 19th-century gentlemen were "on their way to a summer body" after diligently following his guide
Image copyright Cambridge University
Image caption The guide gives instructions on a range of physical activities deemed suitable for young gentlemen, from leaping and vaulting to skating and wrestling.
Image copyright Cambridge University
Image caption Each chapter starts with a definition - balancing "is the art of preserving the stability of the body upon a narrow or moving surface"
Image copyright Cambridge University
Image caption Climbing is "the art of transporting the body in any direction, by the aid, in general, both of the hands and feet"
Image copyright Cambridge University
Image caption As part of the regime a gentleman "must gradually increase his level of exercise to 20 to 24 miles of walking and running a day"
Image copyright Cambridge University
Image caption Mr Walker recommended that "no exertion should be carried to excess, as that only exhausts and enfeebles the body"
Image copyright Cambridge University
Image caption The book claimed to be the first to describe the procedures of rowing and sailing as exercise

The book has been kept in the college's special collections, which can be viewed by appointment.

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