The developing understanding of Human Health and Fitness: 7. The Victorian Era


  • Roy J. Shephard



Active Commuting, Cardiovascular Function, Fitness, Metabolism, Muscle Function, Philosophy, Physical Education, Preventive Medicine, Public Health, Respiratory Function, Scientific Societies, Spectatorism, Sports Medicine, Strength, Women in Sport.


Physiological research flourished during the Victorian Era, particularly in France and Germany. Scientific societies were founded. The cult of Positivism encouraged evidence-based research, and the new laboratory equipment developed by Victorian technology allowed investigators to form an accurate picture of cardiac, respiratory and muscular function. In scientific circles, the theory of Evolution supplanted Creationism, and a growing understanding of Microbiology allowed the first effective measures to be taken against epidemics. Although a few health professionals advocated exercise for health, therapy, and intellectual development, many doctors continued to treat illness with prolonged bed rest. The first Sports Medicine texts appeared, but their focus was more upon the treatment of athletic injuries than on the promotion of positive health. Nevertheless, interest in Preventive Medicine was spurred by the work of Florence Nightingale and Almoth Wright in military hospitals. Vigorous exercise programmes also played a role in some popular forms of

Author Biography

Roy J. Shephard

Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, University of Toronto




How to Cite

Shephard, R. J. (2013). The developing understanding of Human Health and Fitness: 7. The Victorian Era. The Health & Fitness Journal of Canada, 6(2), 3–83.




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