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Arch Hellen Med, 32(1), January-February 2015, 96-101


The therapeutic use of sport during the Byzantine period

N. Stavrakakis,1 E. Albanidis2
1Pulmonary Function Laboratory, Department of Pulmonology, "Venizelio-Pananion" General Hospital of Heraklion, Crete,
2Department of Physical Education and Sport Science, Democritus University of Thrace, Komotini, Greece

The acceptance of exercise as a form of rehabilitation and promotion and preservation of health was complete in the Byzantine practice of medicine. This study was made to investigate to what extent exercise was employed as an adjunct to recovery and how it was used to promote and maintain health in the Byzantine era. Exercises designed to maintain and promote health are found in Byzantine literature from the high schools. Rubbing, kneading and massage were referred to as physiotherapy exercises, and a variety of physical exercises were recommended in the range of gymnastic drills, with each one bearing indications and contraindications. The gymnastic maneuvers included among rehabilitation and health promotion activities were: The walk (walking), the road (running), the hammock (cot), horse riding, the krikilasia (hoop), the nixis (swimming), wrestling, shadow boxing (fist moves unopposed), the afalmos (jumping on the spot), the exalmos (running jump), the exercise ball, the exercise korikas (pugilistic bag), altiriovolia (lifting dumbbells), and armed combat (exercise with full military kit). Exercise as a means of promoting health is often mentioned in the context of military training, and exercise in the modern sense was practiced only in the army. Because of the association of sport with the ancient-pagan spirit, the Byzantine Empire managed only through contradictions that ran contrary to Orthodox tradition and religion to accept exercise as a means of promotion and restoration of health.

Key words: Byzantine medicine, Exercise, Restoration.

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