This is a list of mentions I found with my short googling:

The yoga exercise technics were well-known in Asia as a both physical and mental health cure for a long time.

According to Wikipedia, Cicero said:

It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor

I know about youth movements such as Sokol in the second half of the 19. century. Namely Sokol originated in the Bohemia under the inspiration of the antic athlets and the club was combining the psychological and the physical advantages of exercise.

Eastern psycho-somatic thoughts got to the Western world at the end of the 19th century with the rise of esoterism etc.

But when did physical exercise such as regular stretching technics actually get into the Western world - when it became to be "normal" to stretch?

(I don't ask about the exercise in sense of physical training - that seems to be rooted much deeper in our culture like in the training for hunt, I ask about stretching we do before physically exhausting sport today and I wonder especially, wheter it's rooted rather in science than in culture or philosophy)

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    Maybe you may want to make the question more specific, because there were the Olympic Games several centuries BC. – SJuan76 Jun 4 '16 at 12:33
  • @SJuan76 Yeah, I'm asking about the Western culture. Though, were the Olympic Games really connected anyhow to physical exercising? – Probably Jun 4 '16 at 12:41
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    Probably: First, the ancient Greece is considered a cradle of the Western culture. Second, physical exercises are obviously the "same class of activities" that Olympic athletes are doing and were doing even in ancient Greece, right? It became a mass movement at the end of the 19th century when people had enough energy because the physical labor was being replaced by machines and they thought they needed to compensate for the lack of motion. Sokol emulated similar events in the whole Western world at the same time. – Luboš Motl Jun 4 '16 at 16:55
  • To be sure that Sokol wasn't the oldest one in the modern era - although it was regionally important for many other nations - Turnverein (gymnastics association) was founded by en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Ludwig_Jahn Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, the "father of gymnastics", in 1811. He was motivated by the goal to restore spirit in Prussia after the humiliation by Napoleon. – Luboš Motl Jun 4 '16 at 17:02

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