10 Random Fitness Milestones in London's History - Foundry Personal Training Gyms

10 ‘Did you Know’ Fitness Milestones in London’s History

We are constantly surprised by our members at Foundy, so we challenged each location to come up with two unusual facts (or we have forgotten) about London, but it had to be about health, fitness or gyms.

They did not disappoint!

  • The “Turkish Bath” Obsession (1800s)

In the 1800s, London was gripped by a craze for Turkish baths. Promising detoxification and improved circulation, over 100 Turkish baths dotted the city’s landscape, offering relaxation and wellness.

  • Metropolitan Swimming Baths (1837)

The first public swimming pool, the Metropolitan Swimming Baths, opened in St. Marylebone. Exclusively for men and boys, this establishment was about making waves in communal fitness.

  • The Gymnasium (1844)

London witnesses the opening of its first gym – the Gymnasium in Soho. Founded by the ‘father of modern bodybuilding’, Eugen Sandow, this wasn’t just a place for lifts and squats. It was a statement that Londoners were serious about fitness.

In 1860, Richard Dugard Hippisley’s Gymnasium opened in Lamb’s Conduit Street, promoting the Swedish system of light gymnastics, a precursor to today’s aerobic exercises.

  • Women’s Fitness Renaissance (1890s)

The late 19th century saw the rise of the female fitness enthusiast. Women-only gyms, like the Ladies’ Gymnasium founded by Edith Dowden in 1895, began popping up, shattering stereotypes and promoting women’s health.

  • London Olympics (1908)

1910 might have seen the first official aero race in history, but 1908 brought something even grander to London – the Olympic Games! This historic event significantly popularised sports and fitness in the heart of the city.

  • Fitness Finds a Way WWII (1940s)

Despite the darkness of World War II, London’s spirit was indomitable. Gyms and pools might have shut down due to rationing and blackouts, but parks and public spaces became improvised workout spots, showcasing the city’s resilience.

  • The Gym Boom (1950s)

Post-war, the 1950s saw a surge in gym construction. Bodybuilding and weightlifting weren’t just hobbies; they rapidly became a lifestyle choice for many Londoners.

  • The Aerobics Craze (1960s)

If the 50s were about lifting weights, the 60s were about breaking a sweat on the dance floor. Aerobics studios mushroomed throughout the city, with Londoners grooving to the beats and staying fit.

  • Running Becomes a Thing (1970s)

The 70s was London’s love letter to jogging and marathons. Running clubs sprouted, and stores specialising in running gear became the norm. The London Marathon was first held in 1981 and saw nearly 7,000 participants.

  • Gym Culture Happens (1980s)

The 80s wasn’t just about flashy neon leotards and pop music; it was a decade that reshaped how Londoners approached fitness. Gone were the days of one-size-fits-all gyms. The city saw the emergence of boutique fitness studios, offering specialised, intimate classes tailored to individual needs. London was all about personalising the fitness experience, from spin studios to dance-centric workouts.


Bonus Points

  • Boxing on the River

London’s first recorded boxing match occurred in 1681 on a sandbar in the middle of the River Thames.

Our mission is to help people live their best lives outside of the gym by providing the best possible fitness training in London. This is not limited to and includes random facts that may or may not help you in the local pub quiz.


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