What I Assume the Ancient Romans Did for Exercise

We know a fair amount about Ancient Rome based on written records and archeological discoveries. However, there’s little to no information regarding the fitness industry during this time. As an avid Wikipedia enthusiast who gets the occasional lift in, I decided to take it upon myself to fill this gaping hole in the written record, based on context clues and what can be best described as amateurish guesswork. Here’s how I believe Ancient Romans stayed in shape:

Stabbing Caesar. This was huge in Ancient Rome. Well, if truth be told, Brutus was the only person to actually stab Caesar, but he kick-started a major stabbing fad that persisted into the next millennia. It was basically the Tae Bo of its time (if Billy Blanks also murdered a world leader, that is).

An offshoot of stabbing, patricide was also something the Ancient Romans did a lot, I’m pretty sure. I mean, it just seems like something they would’ve been into, vibe-wise. It was a killer arm workout, with the added benefit of usurping familial power from your unsuspecting father. Simultaneously a great way to get your heart rate up, while bringing your father’s all the way down.

Sculpting, sculpting, sculpting! All the hotties were sculpting in 800 BC, and getting sculpted in the process. They were body-builders in the most literal sense, and I’m honestly confused about what exactly was getting carved – the marble rock or their rock-hard abs.

Peloton was huge back then, too, and gave most Roman citizens a solid cardio workout at a moment’s notice. (Obviously Peloton, the at-home workout company, didn’t exist back then. I’m referring to a man named Peloton that would chase after innocent families traveling along the border of the city. They got their steps in, to say the least.)

Based on a quick skim and loose interpretation of the Roman Empire’s Wikipedia page, chariot-centric exercise was a big thing. Basically, everyone was either dodging runaway chariots or chasing runaway chariots. It was a nice, dynamic way to stay in shape or (don’t quote me on this) get mutilated and die.

Keeping track of the time was also super hands-on in Ancient Rome. Making the sundial, monitoring the sundial, walking to look at the sundial, reading the sundial, telling people what the sundial said – it was all very full-body, and an active lifestyle choice for many citizens of the Eternal City.

Let me be the first to tell you: all the gym bros were gladiating in those days. The Colosseum was essentially a giant Planet Fitness. It’s actually where the “Lunk Alarm” was first invented. Someone please fact check me on that.

In general, fighting to the death was a great way to stay in shape. Not dying was so good for your mental and emotional health. Almost dying was very bad. You walk a thin line with death-fighting. But that’s why recovery was invented! Stretching, amputation, et cetera.

Okay, so, believe it or not, before calendars were invented in 738 BC, every day was leg day! It was a living hell, but their quads were unbelievable. Plus, their short memories kept Rome grinding (and also in a constant state of war and panic). You know the phrase, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”? Well, in those days, that was barbell split squats, compulsively.

Watching Rome burn was kind of the “hot yoga” of its day – Nero loved this one. Citizens of Rome definitely worked up a sweat trying to avoid being flamed to death. This was a short-lived fad, as stabbing regained its popularity not long after.

Carrying your crucifix worked miracles for your core. The only catch was you’d probably suffer an excruciating death right after, but at least you’d be shredded when you did.

In terms of working the lats, painting the Sistine Chapel was all the rage – if you were Michelangelo, that is. For everyone else, it was looking at the Sistine Chapel. I’m 40 percent sure this was Ancient Rome.

Bartering. Oh, you think this wasn’t a workout? You try walking from village to village trying to convince some tattered little farm boy to exchange your broken sandals for a pint of fresh goat’s milk. Then come talk to me about struggle.

Additionally, once you’ve bartered your last asset, you’d quickly realize that the less-preferable option is actually carrying around all your brass and bronze money. If you think carrying a wallet around seems antiquated, just wait until you have to pocket 12 Aureus and 15 Sestertius pieces just to go to the market! You wouldn’t even know if you’re going to get anything, but you’d still have to lug those precious metals through the city square just in case. At least you could say you were getting your reps in when you did.