Physical exercise as a diet component according to Thomas of Wrocław (1297–1378)
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Middle Ages

How to Cite

Kowalska, B. (2019). Physical exercise as a diet component according to Thomas of Wrocław (1297–1378). Sport and Tourism Central European Journal, 2(2), 43–55.


Among mediaeval theologians, in the dualistic perception of man, soul development was the most important thing. However, the intellectual elite of those times included representatives of university medicine who took a look at the needs of a depreciated human body. Their thoughts were dominated by ideas of Arab doctors who were referred to as auctoritas. Thomas of Wrocław (1297–1378), a doctor, the author of a treaty entitled Regimensanitatis persuaded his readers that a diet is not only food and drink, but also physical movement, what should be understood today as a lifestyle. He described movement as exercitium, that is exercise which is beneficial for healthy people. The sick should make use of limited exercise, which should be understood as exercise tailored to individual needs. This modern thought, revolutionary for those times, nowadays constitutes the basis of medical rehabilitation. Primus exercitium also includes body rubbing to open its pores and head combing. Today, we would call these treatments peeling and massage. Recommending them in the mediaeval times shows the author’s awareness of the importance of skin condition for human health. According to Thomas, moderate physical activities – a walk or horse riding – are also necessary. He called them exercitium secundum. The message of Thomas of Wrocław is the next proof for the complexity of the period as it demonstrates that regardless of contemporary opinions about physical exercise disregard in the Middle Ages, maintaining physical fitness was recommended.
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