Pure Air Of The Utmost Importance
( Originally Published 1904 )
"Lung gymnastics should be systematically practised three or four times daily in the open air, or before an open window. The deepest inspiration is to be repeated several dozen times with the arms in full extension above the head and brought to the thighs with expiration. . . . Perseverance in these exercises, with avoidance of cramped, stooping postures in sitting, will accomplish much in developing lung power, even in those whose bones seem rigid. Diaphragm exercises as practised in singing are excellent — in fact, short singing exercises, which often interest the patient more than simple gymnastics, are of service."—William Gilman Thompson, M.D. (On Tuberculosis.)
The foregoing is the expressed opinion of Professor Thompson, of Cornell University Medical College, and represents the attitude to which the persistent advance of physical culture has brought our leading medical men. Professor Thompson's advice is given for the benefit of those who are suffering from the wasting disease of consumption. If air is a great remedy in building up the lungs in tuberculosis, it is obvious that air must be a mighty preventive of the same disease. It can be confidently asserted that the only specific for lung troubles is pure air and plenty of it.
Air is essential to all life. It is also necessary to the manifestation of force of all kinds. Nearly all machinery for example, is actuated by steam. Steam is generated with the aid of fire and fire cannot exist without oxygen. Air is furthermore a food that is necessary to animal life everywhere and at all times.
Science tells us that this body on which we live and call the earth, whirling through space, is surrounded by. a shell of air from one hundred to two hundred miles thick. Roughly speaking, the earth and the air which surrounds it, may be compared. to an orange —the skin of the fruit representing the air and its meat the earth. That illustrates about the proper proportions. The earth is supposed to be something like eight thousand miles in diameter. Therefore, the depth of air is insignificant in comparison- with the earth itself.
Although everyone is aware that air has weight, but few realize that it is this weight which enables it to penetrate every part of the earth's surface. You exhaust the air in a bottle and then open it, and the air will rush in with a tremendous report. If the. air is removed and the bottle is not strong, the external atmospheric pressure will crush it.
Science tells us that the human body. withstands a pressure of about fourteen tons and were it not for the presence of internal air pressing outwards, we would be crushed to atoms.
The importance of air is illustrated in the case of persons who exhibit a liability to fainting. There is an instinctive cry for more air. The bystanders realize its necessity for the fainting person.
There are at the present time many very grave errors existing in reference to air. For instance, it is not by any means an old-time grandmother idea that damp night air should be feared. You will find this fear everywhere, in the city and in the country in fact in all civilized communities. There is an idea that damp air will create disease of some sort. And those very same people who fear such air will go home and shut it up in their rooms and breathe it over and over again, heat it until it is comparatively dry and imagine that when thus fouled by being breathed and re-breathed, it is superior to the pure outside atmosphere.
But, my friends, I think that about the biggest fool of all is the man who is everlastingly afraid of a draught. I never could see the difference between a draught and the wind. You go out into the open at any time when the air is stirring and you come in contact with a draught,yet you fear no ensuing harm.
I have been searching for draughts all my life. I believe in air in motion, I believe in draughts, which, circulating freely, cleanses, purifies, invigorates and strengthens. No matter where I may be, I always ventilate my sleeping room so that I may secure pure air in every sense of the word, and I always sleep in a draught. I am not satisfied until the wind is blowing in my, face, and I want to say that I have followed this: policy for the last fifteen years. Ever since I have believed in having pure air and have been searching for it, I have had very few colds. And whenever I have had a cold I could always trace it to overeating, overwork, an impure atmosphere, or some other hygienic evil.
Now, air of ordinary purity contains but a very small percentage of carbonic-acid gas, which is the principal atmospheric poison.. As you all know, carbonic-acid gas is exhaled from the lungs of all animals, and it is taken up by plants which use carbonic-acid gas just as we do oxygen. I believe that the percentage of carbonic-acid gas is about four parts in ten thousand, in nominally pure air; but in the case of confined air which has become devitalized or poisoned by. repeated breathing, it rises to at least ten parts or more in ten thousand. They tell us that at this point it becomes dangerous, that in any event you suffer from incipient asphyxiation and that you are rendered liable to acquire disease. Of course, while you are actively engaged in some muscular exercise, you use far more oxygen and your lungs exhale a proportionately increased quantity of carbonic-acid gas.