On April 10, 1899, Teddy Roosevelt delivered his speech, "The Strenuous Life."
I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph. A life of slothful ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack either of desire or of power to strive after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as of an individual. It is hard to fail, but is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort.
Besides the character building aspect that came from striving to succeed during that time, an additional benefit of that strenuous life was good health and vitality. Today, for most of us in this country, work is not physically demanding, and the hours are much shorter.