Ch. 2 – “But Is It Good For You?”

In the second chapter, Kunitz sets out to answer the question “but is it good for you?” by  delineating the changing relationship mankind has had with exercise, beginning with the civilizations of ancient Greece, India, China, Egypt, and Rome. In all of these communities, exercise permeated society, from breathing exercises, to endurance activities like swimming and running, to more vigorous activities like wrestling and high and long jumping. Early physicians like Susruta (600 BCE, Indus River civilization) and Hua Tao (140-208 BCE, China), however, warned of exerting the body too hard for fear of damage or death. Kunitz notes Galen of Pergamon (129-200 CE, Rome) as a particularly influential thinker in medicine who expressed disdain toward athletes whose skills were not transferrable to everyday tasks and against excessive acts, whether that be eating or exercising. This emphasis on regulation in Roman society, combined with the prevailing views of Christianity that considered a focus on the body as sinful, led to a decline in rigorous athletic training and a priority instead on spiritual training and moderation.