HCM Issue 11 2021

Page 70


The ties that existed between physical training and healthcare have been cut and healthcare and fitness have become separate industries. This has to change

Physical trainers as health workers

Florence Nightingale played an important role in the fitness industry and if she were still with us, she’d certainly be campaigning for fitness trainers to be fully involved in combating the effects of lockdown, says Muir Gray


lorence was horrified at the state of health of British soldiers in Crimea, where more died of the effects of their poor conditioning than from bullets. After the war she took action and 12 “instructors” – at that time primarily focused on how to shoot and fight – were sent to Oxford. They were sent for two reasons, the first was that Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir Henry Acland, had made it clear he was very willing to help the army improve the health and wellbeing of the soldiers. The second, more important reason, was that one of the world’s first gymnasiums of the modern era was based in Oxford. This gymnasium was run by a Scotsman called Robert McLaren, who himself had studied physical training in Paris and brought fencing and a range of gymnastic opportunities such as rings to the Oxford undergraduates. The building can still be seen today


Issue 11 2021 ©Cybertrek 2021

Muir Gray

at the corner of Blue Boar Street and Alfred Street and is quite reminiscent of the German Gymnasium in London’s Kings Cross, with its solid brick construction. McLaren went on to fund one of Oxford’s best known schools – Summerfields – as well as developing the fitness industry in Oxford in the 1860s. The 12 instructors, renamed the 12 Apostles, went back to the army after their training and embarked on a mission to improve the health, wellbeing and conditioning of British soldiers.

The rise of the PTI Physical training instructors – or PTIs as they were also called – found a place outside the army when their days in service were over and physical training became a key part of healthcare in the 19th century, in part because there were so few effective medical interventions available.