Not only were the Founding Fathers some of the best minds of their (or any) generation, many of them were avid outdoorsmen who often extolled the benefits of regular exercise.
Per his contemporaries, George Washington was swole (our word, not theirs), standing 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds in his prime, a lean and graceful horseman with a fondness for fox hunting and dancing. Thomas Jefferson regularly went for long walks, even into old age. Benjamin Franklin was an agile swimmer (at least, according to Benjamin Franklin). John Adams played a sport called “bat and ball,” a forerunner to the national pastime. Even lesser-known Revolutionaries like Nathanael Greene had such well-rounded hobbies as ice skating, swimming and sailing.
In fact, per a 1955 article on the topic in Sports Illustrated, the First Continental Congress in 1774 had to pass an agreement to “discountenance and discourage every Species of Extravagance and Dissipation, especially all Horse Racing, and all Kinds of gaming, Cock Fighting, Exhibitions of Shows, Plays and other expensive Diversions and entertainments.” In other words, the Revolutionary spirit was nearly sidetracked by a fondness for sports of all types.
So with Independence Day near, we celebrate those who helped create this great nation of ours, and turn to their words for inspiration. Here, some of the best quotes from the Founding Fathers on fitness, exercise and health.
QUOTES FROM OUR FOUNDING FATHERS ON FITNESS
“Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.”
— Thomas Jefferson
“Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”
“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.”
“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”
“I repeat my advice to take a great deal of exercise, and on foot. Health is the first requisite after morality.”
“Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.”
— John Adams
“There are two types of education … One should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live.”
“To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.”
“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”
— George Washington
“Health was amongst (if not the most) precious gift of Heaven, and without it we are but little capable of business, or enjoyment.”
“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
— Benjamin Franklin (OK, this one is apocryphal, but many of the Fathers were brewers. Franklin certainly enjoyed his beer, and, hey — it is the Fourth. It’s OK to enjoy a pint.)