Since Aristotle, and Probably Before, Students Have Been Encouraged to Combine Rigorous Physical Exercise with Demanding Mental Calisthenics

On May 9, 1985, the New York Times ran a stunning exposé on the fitness scene at Wesleyan:

MIDDLETOWN, Conn.— Twice a week, a philosophy class at Wesleyan University here adjourns to the gymnasium, and Sartre gives way to squash.

“We work up a serious sweat,” said Leslye Herrmann, a senior who joins her professor and other students for the extracurricular workout, “I’ve had a real consciousness-raising about my body.’

Doesn’t that sound like fun?

”It’s cool to exercise,” said Dara Lee, a Wesleyan junior. ”It’s almost unacceptable not to.”

The article goes on to place exercise in its historical and intellectual context:

The reasons for the fitness campaign are debated, though it is universally lauded. Since Aristotle, and probably before, students have been encouraged to combine rigorous physical exercise with demanding mental calisthenics.

And people are still constantly policing my use of salt.

Lisa Bogan, who had just finished a lunch of fruit, cheese, green beans and milk, said students employed friendly peer pressure in encouraging better eating habits. ”If I see somebody pouring the salt on,” said Miss Bogan, a freshman, ”I’ll ask them if they know what they’re doing.”

The New York Times archives are full of investigative reports on life at Wesleyan. But no other articles have so thoroughly analyzed the nuances of campus fitness culture in the era when “gymnasiums [had] become a dating place, along with movie theaters and discotheques,” when “Suzanne Erikson, a lifeguard at the Wesleyan pool, said, ‘More people meet here than at parties,'” and when “drinking to excess had become unfashionable.”

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