Creator of Fitness Gyms

Gustav Zander was born in Sweden in 1835. He became a doctor in 1864. Sweden was a welfare state, and the government was concerned with employee safety. Physicians had begun to understand that physical fitness was a key to the prevention of workplace injuries.

Gustav undertook a government-funded project to develop equipment to provide for muscle development using calibrated resistance. Resistance was being used at the time for muscle development, but the resistance was supplied by a human. There was no consistency in the resistance, and the overall approach was ineffective.

Gustav developed a series of machines for specific muscles. Then he created what was then called institutes to provide for physical development. Today we call these gyms. The Swedish government paid for the creation of the institutes. Ultimately Gustav created 53 different machines for use in the institutes.

Gustav began to see the entrepreneurial aspects of the institutes and converted them into health spas for the elite. In effect, he became an international fitness influencer.

Gustav died soon after the conclusion of World War I and at the onset of the Great Depression. His pioneering work was forgotten until America and other countries rediscovered fitness in the last decades of the twentieth century. When Arthur Jones invented machines known as Nautilus for his high fitness training, his machines resembled very much those that Gustav had developed nearly 70 years before. While differing in appearance, the machines that populate gyms across the world were essentially developed by Gustav Zander.

Hidden heroes are often forgotten by events of the day. Gustav’s work was shifted to the back burner of history as the world confronted an epic economic disruption. When the world rediscovered the need for fitness, it took others to reinvent what Gustav had done many years ago.

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“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual ability.” – John F. Kennedy

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