Habits Of Health
( Originally Published 1917 )
Health, Strength, and Happiness.—It is interesting to know how the body does its wonderful work. The study of hygiene should result in much more, however, than the storing of your mind with knowledge. It will fail in its main object if it does not lead you to form habits of health which will help you throughout your life. You should think of health as something splendid and worth while. Health means strength, and beauty, and power to do things well, and cheerfulness, and happiness, and usefulness.
Some children are naturally stronger and healthier than others. If you are one of these fortunate ones, you should make the most of it, and not waste your strength by doing things that harm the body, and so throw away the chances that nature has given you. If you are not naturally strong, remember that you can become healthier and stronger by forming good habits. Theodore Roosevelt was a sickly boy, and became a national example of energy by leading a hygienic life on a western ranch.
When an athlete is going into a race, he trains for it and is glad to pay attention to his body, to get it into the best condition. Life itself is a race, and your success in it will depend very largely on keeping your body strong. It is worth while to form health habits so that you may win in the game of life.
Health is not usually to be gained by taking medicines or tonics. In certain diseases, medicines taken under the doctor's advice are of value; but self-doctoring is almost always harmful. When anything goes wrong, a physician should be consulted promptly to see whether special treatment is needed; but a healthy human body can cure itself of many diseases. We can be sure of having a healthy body only by observing the rules of personal hygiene, particularly in regard to food, fresh air, exercise, and rest, and by avoiding poisonous drugs and stimulants.
Let us now review some of the important principles of health which have been discussed in the earlier chapters.
Food and Health.—The body cannot grow strong; if it does not get enough food to build itself up. On the other hand, overloading the stomach with more food than it needs is almost as great an evil. People are realizing more and more the importance of knowing what foods to eat and in what combinations and quantities. They are thinking more and more, also, about the relative cost value of the nourishment that different foods supply. When you grow older, you will learn more fully than you can in this course how much food value different foods give the body and what they cost, and with this knowledge you can buy food so as to get the most for your money.
The kind of food is just as important as the amount. An excess of rich food or fried food, or too much candy, will harm the body. Too much of the protein foods—meat, fish, and eggs—is bad. The diet should be simple and varied. Milk is one of the best of foods, provided it is clean and pure. Fruits and green vegetables contain things that the body needs and cannot get easily from other sources. Every one should eat some hard and coarse foods, like oatmeal and brown bread.
All foods should be chewed thoroughly before being swallowed. Bolting the food puts an extra burden on the stomach and makes one lose the pleasure and the safeguard that come from the exercise of the power of taste.
Air and Health.—A second important factor in keeping healthy is fresh air. A current of fresh air bathing the body keeps the blood vessels of the skin healthy, makes one feel active and strong, and encourages appetite. People who live in the open air are much less likely to have colds, pneumonia, and tuberculosis, than those who shut them-selves up in overheated rooms. It is best never to stay any longer than necessary in a room that is warmer than 70°. One should be out of doors as much as possible and should always sleep with windows open.
Too much cold, on the other hand, may be harmful. It is especially bad to sit or lie still (without sufficient covers) in a cold room, to sit with wet feet or clothing, or to be ex-posed to a draft after the body has become heated so that it is perspiring.
Clothing and temperature should be adapted to each other, and wraps should be put on or off so as to avoid chills or overheating.
Exercise and Health.—The muscles of the body may be developed surprisingly by proper use, and on their development the health of many organs directly depends. A slouching boy or girl with half-used lungs and flabby muscles is never thoroughly healthy.
For the sake of strength, beauty, and health, one should learn to hold the body well, to support the upper part of the body from the hips, and to sit and stand straight, with stomach in, chest out, and head up.
The only way to keep the lungs healthy is by exercising them, by breathing deeply and keeping the chest expanded and the small lung passages at work and filled with air.
Habits of regular physical exercise are necessary to keep the muscles healthy. Special exercises in the gymnasium will develop weak parts, and it is also desirable for every child to learn to play some outdoor game, so that when he grows up it will be a never-failing source of pleasure and recreation. Baseball, basket ball, tennis, skating, swimming, riding, rowing—every boy or girl should make some one or more of these sports his friend for life.
Rest and Health.—The muscles, nerves, and all the other parts of the body need rest as well as exercise. Playing rests you when you have been working, but play may be harmful if it is too hard or too prolonged.
Remember that the body needs complete rest or sleep for eight or ten hours a day, according to a person's age.
If work or play interferes with sleep, only one result can be expected—a tired, cross, disagreeable person, who cannot get fun out of life or be of much use to other people.
Keeping the Body Free from Wastes.—Getting rid of the wastes of the body is as important as supplying it with the food it needs, for wastes poison the body, whether they are food wastes in the intestines or wastes from the life process in the body itself. The body is helped greatly in getting rid of its wastes by free perspiration, and hard exercise that makes one perspire is an important factor in good health.
It is very important that the wastes from the intestines should be removed regularly at least once a day, in order that poisons may not be absorbed into the body. Drinking a glass of water on rising, and eating oatmeal and fruit and other bulky foods for breakfast, help to secure this result.
Hygiene of the Mouth.—The mouth is the gateway of the body, and its protection against dirt and disease is one of the first essentials of hygiene. In later chapters we shall read about keeping contaminated foods, dirty fingers, and other harmful things out of the mouth; but the mouth itself needs constant care, to prevent harm from the microbes always present there. Decayed teeth, which result from a neglected mouth, not only mean suffering, but open the way for many serious diseases of the whole body.
The regular and thorough use of the toothbrush at least twice a day, and better still after each meal, will do a great deal to prevent painful visits to the dentist and premature loss of teeth.
Avoidance of Drugs and Stimulants.—No athlete in training is allowed to use alcohol or tobacco or any other drugs or stimulants. Without exception, these things make people less efficient physically and mentally. Many of them are habit-forming; that is, the body which has learned the unnatural taste wants more and more. It becomes harder and harder for the slave to the alcohol, tobacco, or drug habit to get free and live a healthy life again. They are all poisons, which in time do serious harm.
The wise man or woman keeps in training all the time, so as to be as healthy as possible, and uses no drugs or stimulants of any kind, for they do no good and always harm the body in the long run. The safest and easiest thing to do is to let them entirely alone.
Discovering Physical Defects in Time.—If each one of us started out with a perfect body and lived an absolutely hygienic life, there would be little need for doctors. Not one of us has a perfect body, however, and not one of us al-ways treats his body just as he should. Something is sure to go wrong now and then; tonsils become diseased, teeth decay, or eyes need glasses.
These physical defects can be cured if they are taken in time, but if they go on too long they may become serious. The purpose of regular medical examinations is to discover anything that is going wrong, before it is too late to remedy it. Such examinations are very necessary, especially for children, whose whole future health may depend upon having defects discovered in time.
Most schools now have a special school doctor to do just this thing—to examine eyes, ears, throat, teeth, chest, and other organs occasionally, and to find out what ought to be done to keep them in good condition. In many schools there is also a school nurse to help examine the children and to visit the homes and tell the parents what treatment the children need.
Fifteen Rules of Health: The manual How to Live, pre-pared by Professor Irving Fisher and Dr. E. L. Fisk for the Life Extension Institute of New York, summarizes some of the most important principles of personal hygiene in the following excellent rules:
1. Ventilate every room you occupy.
2. Wear light, loose, and porous clothes.
3. Seek out-of-door occupations and recreations.
4. Sleep out-of-doors, if you can.
5. Breathe deeply.
6. Avoid overeating and overweight.
7. Eat sparingly of meats and eggs.
8. Eat some hard, some bulky, some raw foods.
9. Eat slowly.
10. Evacuate thoroughly, regularly, and frequently. Stand, sit, and walk erect.
12. Do not allow poisons and infections to enter the body.
13. Keep the teeth, gums, and tongue clean.
14. Work, play, rest, and sleep in moderation.
15. Keep serene.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND REVIEW
1. No amount of knowledge is of any value unless it is put to use. How does this apply to the study of physiology?
2. Why do you want health? Even if you didn't care any-thing about health yourself, what do you owe to other people which should make you work to gain it?
3. Which should try harder to develop good health habits, the child who is naturally well and strong or the child who is inclined to be sickly?
4. What good habits can you form with regard to food and health? Can eating between meals become a habit? Why is it harmful?
5. Examine your present habits. Have you the ice-cream soda habit? The candy habit? Do you eat too much dessert and too few vegetables? Do you take a mouthful of milk or water to "wash down" food? Do you chew your food? Do you eat fast? Do you hurry through your meals to get back to play or to school, or do you spend a little extra time at the table talking and laughing?
6. If a person becomes accustomed to work and play in-doors all the time, he does not enjoy the open air. What harm will result?
7. The girl or the boy who plays outdoors in cold weather without heavy wraps, because it is "too much bother" to put them on, is in danger. Why?
8. Why do people who have learned to sleep and live out-doors feel suffocated in a closed place? Are they better off than the people mentioned in Question 6?
9. Why should boys and girls learn to swim, row, ride, and skate, and to play such games as baseball, basket ball, and tennis?
10. Why are regular sleeping hours necessary? What is likely to be the result if schoolboys and girls go to evening parties, theaters, and moving picture shows during the week?
11. What is the duty, in the great health campaign, of every boy and girl who has learned about the evil of habit-forming drugs and stimulants?
12. Why is the mouth the easiest gateway of disease? How should it be guarded?
13. What habits should we form in the care of the teeth?
14. Is it good for one to think about the body and health all the time? How will good health habits make that unnecessary?
15. Why should children who are apparently well be examined from time to time by a doctor?
16. Do the Fifteen Rules of Health seem to you to cover all necessary health habits?