Gymnastic exercises of the 1930s

In my previous post I wrote about the fact that I had no inspiration for an informative post whatsoever. In vintage blogland everything has been written about once or twice already and I am striving for refreshing posts everytime my hands touch the keyboard to write a new post. And that's harder than it seems. I know that most of the people follow me for the outfit posts that have once dominated this blog so abundantly, but they have been put on the back burner and if you read my blog you will know why. They will come back ... promise!

But beside strutting my vintage gear, I like to learn people something about my (and more often than not, theirs) favorite era; the 1930s. So ... when I couldn't catch sleep last night I decided to make the most of the hours where I would be wide awake, instead of counting sheep. I put my brain in active mode and started thinking on what to write the following morning. Many topics were to be passed in review but none of them seemed good enough until I realised I didn't do my exercise that day and a new topic was born! Exercise! Exercises of the 1930s to be precise!

I will go through popular exercises of the 1930s with you, one at a time ( that gives me some room to breathe to have a good topic in the future when I will lack writers inspiration ;-)! )

Let's begin!
I own a book from the 1930s written by Anka Welman where she explains several gymnastic exercises. These I will write down here. The book gives some general rules before you start! Read along.

"The exercises are perfomed in the early morning in a room with open windows or atleast in a well ventilated room. The lungs need during and shortly after the training an important amount of oxygen. It is important that you exercise naked or atleast wear a woolen or tricot swimsuit so that the body will not be obstructed in movements. Exercise on bare feet is good, both for the better functioning of the skin secretion as for the muscles of the foot and lower leg; the sole takes a great portion of the function after all.

Whether or not one can practice during menstruation; this is individually, but it's important to be careful. After each morning workout it is necessary that you breath deeply in and out several times in supine position, because gymnastics without respiratory exercise gives less effect."

Starting positions
Standing with closed feet
The knees are straight, legs pressed against eachother as much as possible. The abdomen is hereby repealed without moving up the shoulders, glutes strained, with as result that the lumbus loses it's cavities and the back above the seat part up to the shoulders is like a vertical stick. Shoulder blades are together, arms stretched along the body, hands pressed against the sides of the upper legs, the fingers stretched. The head is carried high with a long neck, chin pulled out. This state of the head, abdomen and shoulders are necessary for the right effect of the exercises and must be observed at all starting positions. In everyday life one must try to move the body in this position.

Lying supine
Hands stretched along the body, abdomen repealed, chin pulled out, gluteal muscles tense, the lumbus touch the ground. As soon as the lumbus touches the ground, the pelvis is tilted. You can perform this exercise by standing against a wall, against which the lumbus is pushed.

Sitting cross-legged
One sits with the legs crossed against the seat part, knees apart.

Closed knees on the grond and one sits on the heels, where the toes under no circumstance should be curled but where the instep touches the ground.

Let's start with our first exercise!

Start with the starting position lying supine with the knees drawn up, soles on the ground, heels pressed against your butt, arms stretched above the head on the ground like the girl does on the image.
a) stand up to sitting position as portrayed in the image, with raised knees and hands around the legs.
b) lay down in starting position
Repeat this 10 times.

To be continued .... !


  1. Hoi Lindsay!
    Wat een leuke topic! Ik doe met je mee. Ik kan wel wat beweging gebruiken (vooral nu de dagen korter worden en ik minder op de fiets zit!).

  2. I absolutely adore vintage exercise routines. It seems to me that the ladies back then had more energy than we do nowadays, doesn't it?


  3. As something of a perpetual night owl (whether by choice or circumstances), I very frequently write blog posts and do other lovely online activities in the wee hours of the night, too. In fact, I'd say that I write far more of my posts under the cover of darkness, while the husband and pets sleep soundly mere inches away, than at any other time of the day.

    This post was a lot of fun - thank you for sharing these terrific 1930s workout images with us. I wish you could still readily get workout wear that looked like what the three gals on the treadmill were sporting. It's a lot prettier to look at than worn out yoga pants!

    ♥ Jessica

  4. Oh my Gosh! This is all new to me, exercises from the 30s.
    Perhaps this vintage way will impulse me to do some!

    Since I got pregnant and had the baby, my weight went up and I really need to loose weight. But I don't know how. Seems that doing diet or not, doesn't work. I think I need physical exercise in combination... but don't have the discipline.

    So hopefully, this wonderful and interesting post will inspire me to do it!
    Thank you so much to share it with us!


    PS - I should knit some gymnastics suit of the time!

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