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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Excercise And Keep In Shape

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( Originally Published 1963 )


Movement is the first sign of life. Yet almost everything today is designed to keep people out-of-motion. We push buttons to go up, to go down, to open doors, to wash our clothes, our dishes and to vacuum our floors. We spend hours of our waking day on our rears watching things. Sitting on clouds of upholstered foam-rubber we need do little more than turn a flexible wheel to get wherever we want to go.

Of course this is wonderful. It betokens a day, I hope, when everyone everywhere may be relieved of the enormous amount of labor most of the world still does by physical effort; a day when a woman of twenty-five need not look like forty-five because she has had to carry back-breaking burdens since childhood. We are fortunate to be in the front car of progress, but the train is rushing along so quickly it's hard not to be a little nervous at times. In the last hundred years, we have changed from an energetic society to a people who are becoming increasingly static. From a nation of walkers we have become a nation of people who take the car to any location more than two blocks away.

This is unhealthy because our bodies are capable of an enormous amount of activity. We continue to eat high-calorie diets but do not spend this high-powered fuel. Many doctors feel this is the key to heart ailments in men in their forties and fifties. Most of these men are busy with mental effort, but mental effort, even the most concentrated mental effort, uses few calories. The excess energy taken in, that is not being used, turns to fat and tension, both of which burden the heart.

We have modernized our lives but we have not modernized our diets. If we don't move, if we're not physically active, then we ought to eat much less than we do and we certainly ought not to eat any high-calorie foods. Our bodies simply cannot burn them up. If we do want to eat at least some rich or starchy foods, then we had better plan on a little more action, please!


One of the fortunate things about being in show-business is that it makes you stay trim. Skaters, skiers, swimmers and of course dancers are even luckier. A few years ago when I was doing my own TV show I was in perfect form all the time because I did a four- or five-minute dance number each week which meant I had to rehearse for an hour or two every day. For me, this was especially fortunate, because I am not an exerciser by nature. For me, one answer is to exercise without knowing that I'm exercising. In other words, to integrate movement into my daily life.


Washing walls, dusting, or rearranging shelves (preferably high ones), all do wonderful things for your upper torso: your bosom, arms and waist. Better than any exercise I know of these very necessary household chores give you a chance to extend your body, to pull from the waist and uncramp all the creases and muscles of your body that don't usually get stretched. Be sure you stand, whenever possible, with your feet flat on the ground so that you feel a good strong pull in your waist as you reach. Use your left hand every once in a while, so it doesn't feel ignored.

Mowing the lawn is fine exercise for the bosom, the arms, the neck, the back. Don't let the men have a monopoly on it.

It's important not to do these chores, or any physical activity, with tension or strain. Add no more energy than you actually need to accomplish them. Many people tense up the moment they become conscious that they are about to undertake any kind of formal effort. But the added tension only makes the job more difficult. Begin anything you do, whether exercise or chore, from a state of ease and relaxation.

This is why I so firmly believe that activities that happen naturally, like playing with your baby, romping with your dog, scrubbing your back in the tub, and many household tasks are so wonderful for your body-if you do them with vigor, freedom, and joy. Don't restrain those impulses to really jump or run or swing your child, or race the dog across the lawn. The more you learn to play and move fully and freely-the way children do-the more vital and beautiful your body will become.


Remember Barbara Moore, the lady of fifty-eight who walked from New York to Los Angeles (on a vegetarian diet). Newsphotos of her showed a vital, strong-looking attractive woman with not an extra ounce of fat on her body. Dr. Paul Dudley White, President Eisenhower's famous heart specialist, puts much of the blame for early heart attacks in this country on the fact that Americans don't do much walking. But when I say walk, I mean walk-a minimum of an hour and a half or two. It will vitalize every part of your body, if you do it every day. Walking is simply wonderful.

Of course, there's a right way and a wrong way to walk. Most people walk the wrong way. Their shoulders slouch, their backs are swayed, they push their legs instead of having them move easily from the hips. When you walk, your shoulders should be pulled back, your neck and head raised off your collar bone, your chin pointed straight ahead, your bottom tucked well under your hips, and your waist and upper torso lifted high. If you keep this posture as you walk your legs will swing effortlessly from the pelvis, and you should be able to walk and walk and walk without strain or undue fatigue.


I may be the world's worst tennis player. But I do ice skate in the winter! I learned to swim two summers ago, and sometimes I bowl. If you're the sporty type all other exercise is probably unnecessary for you. Zsa Zsa Gabor, for instance, fences, rides horseback, and was the junior ping-pong champion of Hungary-something not many people know. She says, "Sports are the best exercise in the world," and she looks as if they certainly are for her.

Some sports do more for all of you than others. In this regard, swimming is probably the best. But golfers swear by their 18 holes that the combination of walking and hitting the little ball is tops for body toning. Personally, I've seen too many golfers who slump as they walk from one hole to the next, and then strain unprepared muscles and ligaments every time they raise their golf stick. It's just the same old story. It's not what you do, but the way that you do it, and how often you do it. Tennis is a terriffic sport, but an hour of tennis once a month is useless. Learn to hit the ball properly, master the rhythm, then play at least once or twice a week. And don't say the game is too strenuous. King Gustav of Sweden, who died in his nineties, was still winning tennis matches in his eighties. (I still can't play the damn game.)

Skiing, a tremendously popular sport today, is, I think, just about the most exciting sport in the world. I don't ski. But just watching people who do, exercises my goose bumps. If you really want to ski well, (or just get up a slope without a ski tow), you must develop strong muscles in your legs; they do about go per cent of the work in skiing. But I am told by ski experts, and it certainly seems logical, that to ski properly, your entire body must become tight, trim and poised. Oh yes, you must have or develop a good sense of balance.


These are of course only a few of the ways you can incorporate "exercise" into your everyday life without having to think of it as therapy. There are others. Take scrubbing your back in the bathtub. It's wonderful, especially if you really work on washing that elusive middle region. If you succeed you're also stretching your whole upper torso. And try scrubbing with the left hand as well as the right. No back-brushes, please. That's cheating. The tub offers all sorts of "exercise" possibilities. Try keeping your back straight while you wash your feet, stretching from the waist. Dry yourself briskly all over.

I know several women who keep the radio on while they do housework, or cook, or watch their children, and dance to music whenever they have a chance. With no one around most people do feel free to let go and respond to music the way they never do in company or even with their close family. For some women, ridding themselves of self-consciousness, even with no one in the room, is a big hurdle. I know how to peel potatoes and rumba at the same time. A polka is a bit more difficult. We won't discuss the cha-cha.

But, in all seriousness, if you do find that you can really move to music, no matter what you think you look like-don't look in the mirror, that's not the point-but because you find you enjoy it, much of your exercise problem is solved. Fifteen minutes of dancing (invent steps, turn, leap, jump, do anything) a day will keep your whole body limber and alive.