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Excercise And Keep In Shape

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( Originally Published 1963 )



Now for the lovers of formal exercising here are a number of body movements used by a group of Hollywood and Broadway actresses for several years under the direction of Sono Osato (a ballet dancer most famous for playing Miss Subways in Jerome Robbins' and Leonard Bernstein's musical On The Town). Miss Osato designed these exercises specifically to: a) keep weight from accumulating in places where weight tends to accumulate; (or to whittle it down in spots where it has already settled) b ) to restore tone, resiliency and line to bodies that have been allowed to go slack; c ) to develop bodily grace, dignity and stature as the basis not only of good posture, but of the sort of beautiful bearing the public wants and hopes to see in its performers.

All these body qualities are important, not just for actresses, but for you.

The first group of exercises should be done-flat on your back: (These are great for trimming or keeping trim the waist, thighs, legs, hips. Do them on the floor or on the lawn. If you are indoors I suggest you buy yourself one of those 3' x 6' straw mats. They sell them in Japanese shops and in some department stores, though any small rug or blanket will do.

1. Lie flat on your back, arms at your sides; shoulders and head should be comfortably resting against the floor. Without moving any other part of your body slowly raise your legs, keeping them straight as poles to a count of ten, so that at ten your legs form a perfect right angle to the rest of your body.

Now lower them as slowly as you raised them, again to a count of ten, till they are back on the ground. This should and will hurt at first and you will have to learn to resist the urge to allow your legs to fall back to earth before you've finished the count. The point of the exercise is to try to control the entire movement with your hips and thigh muscles.

2. Begin again in the same position, flat on your back, but this time bend your knees so that your upper leg forms a right angle to your body and your lower leg forms a right angle to your upper leg. Sounds tricky, but look how simple it is.

Now slowly straighten your bent legs till your toes are pointing directly up towards the ceiling. Then bring your straightened legs back over your head till your toes touch, or come close to touching the ground behind you. Bring them back to their original bent position and begin again. Do this one ten times too, if you can.

3. Flat on your back again girls, but this time your arms, instead of being at your sides, should be out straight behind your head. Now sit up neatly and cleanly from the waist, without using your arms or any other part of your body to help you up. Lie down again the same way. Ten times at least.

4. Your arms are at your sides and your legs are slightly apart. Now roll from one hip to the other so that the left leg gets to touch the floor on your right side and then your right leg touches the left. The hips should get the brunt of the movement and do the exercise till they feel slightly weary.


The next group of exercises are designed for what dancers call "over-all limberness." For non-dancers this means a flexible body that will move gracefully. These exercises are also about the best there are for waist slimming.

1. Sit on the floor; keep your back as straight as possible. Your legs should be at least two feet apart.

Now, bending from the waist, reach as far as possible towards the ground between your legs at about toe-point, and do this with a bouncing, rocking movement from the waist and hips from ten to twenty times.

2. From the same position try to touch the toes of your right foot, then your left foot, then the ground between them, with both of your arms, keeping your legs absolutely straight. You should feel a strong pull in your thighs and calfs in this and almost all the sitting exercises. That's what you're supposed to feel, but don't be a martyr. Don't overdo these exercises in the beginning and don't do any sharp movements. To really mean something to your body these exercises must be done evenly and every day.

3. Put your legs straight out in front of you, still sitting on the ground and still keeping an erect back, torso and head. Now reaching for your toes, or even beyond them if you can, bounce from the waist ten to twenty times or so. Feel a real stretch in your waist and a pull in your thighs.

4. A fine variation of the sitting stretch, if you have a friend or neighbor who would like to share your suffering, is this one. Have her face you in the identical sitting position that you've been in and will be in for this one. Put your legs as far apart as you comfortably can and have her do it too. Now join the soles of your feet together and take hands. First round, you pull her towards you so that she is being stretched forward from the waist and you are leaning far back, for about ten to twenty stretches. Then reverse roles and have her pull you forwards.

A wonderful alternate to this is to pull each other round in a full circle. Pull your friend forward, then to the side, then she'll be pulling you forward and to the side, then you'll be pulling her forward and so on.


Make yourself a bar, the most important exercise tool of every dancer, by setting a wooden-backed kitchen chair in the middle of the room and if possible in front of a long mirror. Hold on to the chair back very lightly with one hand and take an easy standing position with your feet turned slightly out.

1. Lower yourself slowly and evenly, holding on to the bar as lightly as possible, and never leaning on it, into a squatting position, but keeping your bottom tucked well under your hips all the time.

The muscles that must control your descent and rise (which should be done as slowly as going down) are those in the upper thigh, the calf, and in the hip area.

2. This one, and the ones to follow, are easier. Still holding on to the bar very lightly begin to swing your outer leg, the one that is not next to the chair. The knee should be pointing slightly to the side as you swing it. Swing each leg about 16 times going only as high as you comfortably can.

3. Now, instead of swinging the legs you will lift them, first forward, then to the side, then to the back, controlling the lift completely with your thigh muscles. Lift only as high as you feel you can, but hold the leg at its maximum height for a second or two, then lower it as slowly as you raised it, controlling the rate of descent all the way down.

4. A last bar exercise. Stand very straight, tuck your bottom well under your hips (where it should be whenever you want to look good to the world), keep your bosom and waist lifted high. Now with your free arm, brush the ground (bending from the waist but keeping your legs very straight) cross the arm in front of your body as it brushes the ground, then as the arm comes up, (bringing your body with it, of course) raise it till it is over your head, and ready to begin the circle again. Your arm must make a complete rotation which your body will follow, the way the minute hand of a clock does.


After a while you really shouldn't have to hold onto the bar all the time. Balance ought to be one of the goals of your exercises because a real feeling of balance corrects any posture defects and a balanced body is automatically a graceful one. So be brave and move away from the bar and let's do some more stretches.

1. Stand in front of a mirror if you like and stretch easily forwards (till your hair, if it's long, is sweeping the floor), to the side (so that one side of your waist really feels its being made inches longer), to the back (but carefully, you don't want to pull any thing that shouldn't be pulled), to the other side and back again to the front. This should feel very good and you ought to be able to do all these stretches easily, feeling loose but stretched at the same time. Aim for eight stretches in each direction for as long as you want, but three rounds should be enough in the beginning.

2. Now try doing that squat, the one where you don't stick your bottom out, without holding onto anything. This is for balance all right. It also forces you to use all the muscles in your upper thighs and gives the waist a wonderful stretch if you are keeping your upper back and torso as high and erect as you should. Your legs, at first, will probably feel shaky; you may even find yourself unexpectedly on the ground, rear first. But success will mean great strides towards balance, grace and true poise. Need I add that every such stretch automatically takes inches off the places where there should never have been excess weight to begin with. 3. Jump! The way children do. But cushion your landings by bending your knees very slightly. Begin with 16 quick little jumps, not rising higher than a foot off the ground. Next, if you're not too pooped, try some bigger jumps. If you do your big jumps with your feet spread apart and slightly turned out you'll feel a good healthy pull in the thighs and you'll have a much better base for landing and taking off operations. But don't forget to land lightly and on slightly bent knees. The jumps ought to wake up every muscle in your body and officially end your exercise period. Delightfully weary but completely awake, you're fully entitled to quit now and head for a cup of bouillon, a glass of juice, or heavier fare if you think it won't undo the benefits of your hard work.

Or, why not go on a bit longer and do a few exercises specially designed to keep the bosom muscles firm, to reduce flab on the upper arms. These exercises are great wrist-strengtheners-a fact that ought to be particularly appealing to tennis and golf players.

In all of the following exercises, from a simple standing position, have your arms stretched outwards so that they make one long straight line continuing out from your shoulders.

1. With your palms faced away from you, bend your thumbs back as far as they will go towards your body. Now simply turn the thumb, and of course the hand will follow it, downwards. But with a very definite quick movement. Return to the thumbsup position, and turn it down again. Do this as long as you can till it really hurts. And it will. The stretch through the entire arm and chest is amazing.

3. I think of this one as the eagle exercise and it should appeal to anyone who has ever wanted to fly like the birdies. From the arm out-stretched position raise both arms a few inches above the shoulder line two or three times. The arms should go successively higher each time but when they've reached the point where you feel too great a pull bring them back down. To anyone watching you should look like a big bird. Unfortunately, you won't fly very far this way but I hope it's some compensation to know you'll be going far towards strengthening your chest muscles.

4. This last one has a wonderful psychological effect. Make your hands into fists at the end of your outstretched arms, then throw the fingers out, bring them back into a fist, and keep doing that till your fingers feel they are quite literally going to fall off. This simple exercise though exhausting at first is worth the effort. It tightens the arm muscles, the bosom, strengthens the wrists.