( Originally Published 1927 )
Under present conditions there is a tendency for many to be physically inactive. As a consequence the circulation becomes sluggish. The surface circulation and the flow of blood to the extremities grow inadequate. This means premature aging. One purpose of exercise is to maintain the circulation of the blood.
Another purpose is to keep the muscles in tonic condition. Many muscles are hardly used by sedentary persons. As a result they deteriorate. But the deterioration does not stop here, for in the process muscles that are very essential also degenerate.
Most individuals tend to grow stiff and hard as they advance in years. This is a great mistake, for it means premature aging. A person should be as supple, limber, lithe, pliant and flexible at sixty as he is at twenty-five. Correct exercise will help to bring about this happy condition.
The true purpose of correct exercise is to: (1) maintain good circulation; (2) retain muscle tonicity; (3) keep the body lithe and supple; and by so doing (4) increase the stock of health' and prolong life.
Do not make the usual mistake of exercising always in a straight line. Watch little children and animals at play. See how they stretch, wriggle, twist and squirm. Do likewise.
How much exercise is necessary and how is it to be taken so it will not degenerate into drudgery? There are very few with enough persistence to continue certain exercises, no matter how beneficial, if they become a grind.
The amount required depends upon circumstances. Ordinarily, a few minutes of exercise each day, supplemented with some walking and deep breathing will suffice. About five minutes of vigorous exercise night and morning are generally enough to keep a person in good physical condition, if he is prudent otherwise.
Many strive to build up a great musculature. This is a mistake. Big muscles do not spell health, efficiency and endurance. Even a dyspeptic may be able to build big muscles.
It is generally dangerous to build up great muscles, for if the exercise that brought them into being is stopped these muscles begin to deteriorate so fast that the system with difficulty gets rid of the poisons. Then look out for one of the diseases of degeneration, such as inflammation of the kidneys, typhoid fever, or liver trouble.
Exercise should not be a task. It should be of a kind that interests and pleases the individual, for then it is accompanied by an agreeable mental state from which great good comes to the body. It is necessary for us to think enough of our bodies to supply them with the activity needed for their welfare and we should do this with good grace.
Exercise enough to bring the various muscles into play and the heart into vigorous action. Office workers should exercise the body above the waist, and walk each day. All should take enough exercise to keep the spine straight and pliable. Bending exercises are good for this purpose, keeping the knees straight.
It is very desirable to maintain the body erect, for this creates the greatest lung capacity and gives the individual a noble, courageous appearance and feeling. The forward slouch is the position of the ape. Being straight is a matter of habit. No one can maintain this position without some effort. At least, one has to make the effort to get and retain the habit. Most round-shouldered people could school themselves in two or three months to be straight. Throw the shoulders back and the chest and spine will assume the correct relationship.
Those who are moderate in eating need less exercise than others. Too great food intake requires much labor to burn up the excess. To exercise much and long, then eat enough to compel more exercise, is a waste of good food, time and energy. Be moderate in all things if you would have the best that life can give.
Always make deep breathing a part of the exercise. No matter what one's physical troubles may be, deep breathing will help to overcome them. It will help to cure cold feet by bringing more oxygen into the blood. It will help to drive away constipation by giving internal massage to the bowels. It will help to overcome torpid liver by the exercise given that organ. It will help to cure rheumatism by se-curing enough oxygen to burn up some of the foreign deposits in various parts of the body. As an eye-opener deep breathing has alcohol distanced. It costs nothing and has only good after effects. Moreover, deep breathing takes no time. A dozen or more deep breaths can be taken morning and night, and every time one steps into the fresh air, without taking a second from one's working time. To have health good blood is necessary, and this can not be had without taking sufficient fresh air into the lungs.
Proper clothing must also be taken into consideration in connection with breathing and exercise. The clothes must be loose enough to allow free play to limbs, chest and abdomen.
The time to take exercise depends upon circumstances. It is best not to indulge for at least one or two hours after a hearty meal, for vigorous exercise interferes with digestion. A very good plan is to take from five to fifteen minutes of exercise, according to one's requirement, before dressing in the morning and after undressing at night. Exercise in a gymnasium or out of door games are all right.
The body must be used to keep it from de-generating. A healthy body gives courage and an optimistic outlook upon life. A sluggish liver can hide the most beautiful sunrise, but a healthy body gives the eye power to see beauty on the most dreary day.
Those who are not accustomed to exercise will be very sore at first, if they begin too vigorously. The soreness can be avoided by exercising but one or two minutes at a time at first, and slowly increasing until the desired amount is taken daily.
If the muscles become a little sore and stiff at first, do not quit, for by continuing the exercises the soreness soon leaves. Many begin with great enthusiasm, which soon burns itself out. Go to work at a rate that can be maintained. To exercise hard for a few weeks or a few months and then give it up will do no good in the end. However, a person may with benefit occasionally let a day or two pass by without taking exercise. Avoid getting into a rut.
The very best exercises are those which are taken in the spirit of play. Time enough can be found occasionally to spend at least an afternoon in the open, and this is very important. We can not long flourish without getting into touch with mother nature, and we need a few hours each week without care and worry in her company.
Swimming is one of the best of exercises. There is much difference between swimming and taking a bath in a tub. Some people can not long remain in the water, but if they have any resistance at all and are active, there will be no bad results. In swimming it is well to take various strokes, swimming on the back, on the side, and on the face. This brings nearly every muscle in the body into play and if the swimmer does not stay in too long it makes him feel fine. If a feeling of chilliness or weariness is experienced, it is time to quit the water, dry off well and take a vigorous dry rub. Swims should always be followed with considerable rubbing. The use of a little olive oil on the body, and especially on the feet, is very grateful. No special rule can be given for the duration of a swim, but very thin people should generally limit their stay in the water to fifteen minutes, and stout, vigorous ones to an hour or less. It is best not to swim until two hours have elapsed since the last meal.
Golf is no longer a rich man's game. The large cities have public links. For an office man it is a splendid game. Women can play it with equal benefit.
Tennis is splendid for some. Those who are very nervous and excitable should play some-thing else, for they are apt to play too hard and use up too much energy. Overexercising is as harmful as excesses in other lines. Tennis requires quickness and is a good game for those who are inclined to be sluggish, for it wakes them up.
Horseback riding is also splendid. There is only one correct way for both sexes to ride, and that is astride. The side saddle position cramps the rider.
Tramping is possible for all. If there are hills to be climbed, or mountains, so much the better. Put on old clothes and old shoes and have an enjoyable time.
Playing ball may be indulged in with benefit. Jumping rope, playing handball, tossing the medicine ball and sawing wood are good forms of exercise and great fun. The spirit of play and good will easily double the value of any exercise that is taken.
Dancing is also good if the ventilation is adequate and the hours are reasonable.
Under various conditions vicarious exercises are valuable and by that I mean such forms of exercise as massage, or mechanical treatment.
Some take exercises while lying in bed or on the floor. One good exercise to take while lying on the back is to go through the motions of riding a bicycle.
There should be no round shoulders and sunken chests. A few weeks, or at most a few months, will correct them in young people. The older the individual, the longer it takes. If the vertebrae have grown together in bony union no correction is possible.
It is as necessary to relax as it is to exercise. When weary, take a few minutes off and let go physically and mentally; even if it is for but five minutes, the ease gives renewed vigor. It does not matter what position is assumed, if it is comfortable and allows the muscles to lose all tension. At such times it is well to let the eyelids gently close, giving the eyes a rest. A good relaxing position is to sit in a comfortable chair, both feet flat on the floor in front of the body, the hands limp in the lap, and the eye lids gently closed. Rest the body against the back of the chair. Lying down is even better.
Many do not know how to relax. They think they are relaxed, yet their bodies are in a state of tension. When relaxed any part of the body that may be raised falls down again as though it were lead.
A worker should not exercise to the point of being fagged. Proper exercise does not weary one; it tones the individual. Many are so situated that they can only obtain exercise at home. Their minds turn to patent exercisers, Indian clubs, dumbbells, and apparatus of various kinds. These are helpful, but often become monotonous.
In many occupations the body tends to become unbalanced. A farmer is inclined to slump; the desk worker grows round-shouldered; the letter carrier becomes one-sided. And so it is in many lines. Such individuals should use corrective exercises.
Many can make up their own exercises ; others lack the initiative to do this; they can take a course of instruction, or they can avail themselves of the magazines and books on the subject.
This book appeals to those who are of adult years so it is well to remind the readers not to be too violent in exercising. Be moderate in all things. Of late years it has been rather common to read that people past fifty or sixty years of age have dropped dead on the golf links. On hot days no person in advanced years should force himself to play 18 holes of golf if he grows weary. Be moderate. Many individuals have too high blood pressure and this makes them feel that they are full of energy and strength, when they are merely overstimulated by an abnormal condition. It is well to remember that if the blood pressure is too high the individual who values his life should avoid violent and too protracted exercises.
No attempt will be made to give numerous exercises in this chapter, nor ones of great originality, but enough will be presented to maintain balance. The few that are here given are tried and true ones.
A person should not always exercise in a straight line, but he should also twist and stretch and do sidewise motions.
Individuals who eat moderately need not spend much time exercising. They should do some walking every day and take from ten to twenty minutes of special exercises. A short period like that will not prove irksome, but will be of great benefit.
Those who are fortunate enough to be able to ride horseback or hike or golf or swim or participate in any kind of outdoor games should do this in preference to calisthenics taken indoors.
Tennis is too violent for most people past middle age. Some who have kept themselves in good condition can with benefit continue this game even in the sixties and seventies, but no one with high blood pressure should attempt it. Elderly individuals in splendid condition can with benefit swim, but if there is any trouble with the heart, arteries and kidneys, the swimming period should not extend over five to ten minutes.
The following calisthenics will exercise the entire body and can be taken by those who are unable to be in the open.
1. With the rest of the body kept still, using the shoulders as a pivot, rotate the head from left to right from six to twelve times, then re-verse and rotate about the same number of times from right to left.
2. Holding the lower part of the body quiet and the knees stiff, with the waistline as a pivot, rotate the entire upper body from six to twelve times from left to right; then reverse and rotate the same number of times from right to left. While this is being done the arms should hang limp at the sides.
3. Stand erect with the arms falling at the sides, which is the at-rest position; draw the anterior abdominal wall inwards and upwards, making the abdomen hollow. Hold the position a little while and relax again. Repeat from six to a dozen times. This exercise should be done two or three times a day by those who have poor circulation, Why? Because as the individual travels through life, there is a tendency for the blood to stagnate in the great vessels within the abdomen and this exercise helps to empty those blood vessels and in this way aids the circulation of the blood throughout the entire body. This is one of the best of exercises.;
4. Squat until resting on the toes and, with the arms at the sides, the finger tips touch the floor. In doing this exercise get into the squatting positon slowly and and rise to the erect position slowly. This is a very good exercise and one that is much used in the army.
5. Stand in the at-rest position. Gradually rise on the toes and while getting into this position raise the arms at the sides, holding the el-bows straight, until the fingers touch above the head. Get on the toes and raise the arms slowly and gracefully; return to the at-rest position slowly and gracefully too. While rising and raising the arms inhale ; while returning to the at-rest position, exhale.
6. While in the fresh air or before an open window stand in the at-rest position, shoulders gently thrown back, and slowly inhale all the air you can through the nose. Do not attempt to hold the air long after you have inhaled it, but slowly exhale it, either through the nose or both through the nose and the mouth. Repeat at least a dozen times. This exercise helps to cleanse the blood and to massage the stomach, liver and intestines. If, while inhaling and ex haling, you wish to take gentle arm exercises, it is very good, but the important part is the deep breathing.
7. Either lie in bed or sit in a comfortable chair or stand. Twist and turn the body in all kinds of directions and while so doing stretch—stretch the arms and stretch the legs and twist the waist line and go sidewise so as to stretch every muscle of the body. While doing this perhaps you would like to have a rubber ball in each hand or something else to grasp. This stretching exercise is excellent and can be taken in many different ways. Watch the animals and little children and get pointers from them.
8. A good exercise for the leg muscles and the muscles of the abdomen is to lie flat on the back and with the legs in the air go through the motions of riding a bicycle.
9. Stand in the at-rest position. Slowly lean to the left and let the left arm drop as low as it can, going below the knee, at the same time raising the right arm as high as you can and curling it over the head. Keep the knees straight. Slowly return: to the at-rest position. Repeat several times. Then reverse and raise the left arm as you lower the right arm and repeat several times.
The few simple exercises already given will keep the body pliable and maintain good circulation and prevent the stiffening of the muscles anywhere in the body. In other words, these exercises will help the individual to outwit old age.
Exercises have been devised for those who like to take them in bed and there is no objection to these, but more active people prefer to be out of bed when taking their exercises.
Everybody should exercise, but elderly people should be moderate and avoid violence. They should also avoid exercising to the point of growing extremely fatigued.