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- This is about the fitness movement; for the study of the physical aspects of cultures, see Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, and Social Anthropology.
During the mid-late 20th century, physical culture has become a largely outmoded concept in most English-speaking countries, and exercise now occurs in the context of physical education and fitness training.
The physical culture movement of the 19th century owed its origins to several cultural trends.
As a result of the Industrial Revolution, there arose a perception that members of the middle classes were suffering from various "diseases of affluence" that were partially attributed to their increasingly sedentary lifestyles. In consequence, numerous exercise systems were developed, typically drawing from a range of traditional folk games, dances and sports, military training and medical calisthenics. Many of these systems drew inspiration from the classical Greek and Roman models of athletic training and were organized according to more-or-less scientific methods.
Increasing levels of literacy, the increasing democratization of printing and the relative affluence of the middle classes spurred the growth of a genre of magazines and books detailing these systems of physical culture. Mass production techniques also allowed the manufacture and commercial sale of various items of exercise equipment. During the early and mid-19th century, these printed works and items of apparatus generally addressed exercise as a form of remedial physical therapy.
Certain items of equipment and types of exercise were common to several different physical culture systems, including exercises with Indian clubs, medicine balls, wooden or iron wands and dumbbells. Combat sports such as fencing, boxing and wrestling were also widely practiced in physical culture schools, and were touted as forms of physical culture in their own right.
By the later 19th century, the ethos of physical culture had expanded to include exercise as recreation, education, as preparation for competitive sport and as an adjunct to various political, social, moral and religious causes. The Muscular Christianity movement is an example of the latter approach, advocating a fusion of energetic Christian activism and rigorous physical culture training.
Contemporary interest in 19th century physical culture 
Considerable academic research into 19th century physical culture has been undertaken since the 1980s and numerous articles, theses and books have been produced addressing the topic from various historical and sociocultural perspectives.
A number of contemporary strength and health training programs are based directly upon, or draw inspiration from various physical culture systems.
The historic Hegeler Carus Mansion in LaSalle, Illinois features a gymnasium that is believed to be a uniquely preserved example of a late-19th century physical culture training facility. As of 2008, a project is underway to restore the Hegeler Carus gymnasium as a museum of physical culture training and apparatus.
Modern collections of antique physical culture apparatus include those of the Joe and Betty Weider Museum of Physical Culture, part of the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports at the University of Texas at Austin and the Gymuseum collection at the Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio in Ravenswood, Chicago.