An Esquire Best Nonfiction Book of 2022
From Insomniac City author Bill Hayes, who can tackle just about any subject in book form, and make you glad he did (SF Chronicle)
A Lit Hub Most Anticipated Book of 2022
—a cultural, scientific, literary, and personal history of exercise.
Exercise is our modern obsession, and we have the fancy workout gear and fads from HIIT to spin classes to hot yoga to prove it. Exercise–a form of physical activity distinct from sports, play, or athletics–was an ancient obsession, too, but as a chapter in human history, it’s been largely overlooked. In Sweat
, Bill Hayes runs, jogs, swims, spins, walks, bikes, boxes, lifts, sweats, and downward-dogs his way through the origins of different forms of exercise, chronicling how they have evolved over time, dissecting the dynamics of human movement.
Hippocrates, Plato, Galen, Susan B. Anthony, Jack LaLanne, and Jane Fonda, among many others, make appearances in Sweat
, but chief among the historical figures is Girolamo Mercuriale, a Renaissance-era Italian physician who aimed singlehandedly to revive the ancient Greek “art of exercising” through his 1569 book De arte gymnastica
. Though largely forgotten over the past five centuries, Mercuriale and his illustrated treatise were pioneering, and are brought back to life in the pages of Sweat.
Hayes ties his own personal experience–and ours–to the cultural and scientific history of exercise, from ancient times to the present day, giving us a new way to understand its place in our lives in the 21st century.