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Physical Exercises And How They Help You To Be Strong And Well

( Originally Published 1920 )

Health in War and Peace.—You have all heard of the splendid work done by American men and women in the great World War, and you are all interested in knowing how to make yourselves able to do work just as great when you grow up, although we hope it will not be on account of another war. Every man who went into the army and navy, every woman who did continuous and effective Red Cross or other war work, had to be physically strong and well. In other words, in order to be useful, one must be in good physical condition; and I am going to show you how you can secure this for your-selves.

Some Rules for Health.—Boys and girls should re-member that although their parents take care of them, those parents cannot possibly look after them all the time and see that no harm befalls them. If they do something that Nature does not approve of, they them-selves will have to pay the price. No one can bear pain for them, no matter how sympathetic he may be. For this reason, there are many things that children should learn early. Here are a few of the most important of them:

If you get wet, don't sit down in your wet clothes, but keep moving until you have a chance to change them.

When you are heated, don't sit down in a draft or cool off suddenly, but put on a coat or wrap.

Get nine or ten hours of sleep in a room with the windows open, or else on a sleeping porch:

Keep clean and always wash your hands before eating. Don't drink water from old wells or other places that may be polluted.

Brush your teeth at least twice a day.

Don't eat candy between meals. A reasonable amount of candy will not hurt anyone unless it takes the place of more wholesome food.

Don't hurry through your meals.

Don't wear tight clothes, such as tight shoes, tight collars, or tight gloves.

Don't read in a bad light. Rest the eyes every now and then by looking up from the book.

Don't lose your temper. Getting angry injures the health.

Don't eat when you are tired out, and don't eat when you are cross or angry. You ought not to be either cross or angry; but if you are, take time to cool off before you eat.

These are all just common-sense things which your parents or teachers tell you daily. But you are, after all, the ones who must pay attention to them, for you are the ones who will suffer if you do not.

In addition to all this, play your games. The boy or girl who stands on one side and does not play is not only losing pleasure but is likely to lose health as well.

Set-up Exercises.—Finally, there are a few exercises or games that will help every boy to become stronger and better at his games and his work. They will also help every girl to become graceful as well as healthy. They are the same exercises in a modified form that the boys who went into the army or navy took every day.

These games we call "set-up" exercises. They are exercises to make the body grow properly, to make you stand properly, to enable you to have good lungs and a good heart, and to have, as you grow up, a better chance for that health and enjoyment which is the best part of life. I have taken the form of "set-up" that was used very largely in naval stations and aviation fields, and have adapted the exercises so that you, too, can get the benefits of them and know that you are helping your country by giving it a chance to have stronger boys and girls. With the descriptions below, and with the help of teachers or parents or big brothers, any child can easily learn to do these exercises.


The first of the exercises we will call "Winding Up the Clock," because, if you do it properly, you will make circles with your hands, while your shoulders feel as though they were turning, and your shoulder blades feel as if they were almost meeting at the back.

Always stand squarely on the feet with heels separated about 5 inches, and feet pointing nearly straight forward, arms hanging easily at the sides, chest slightly raised, and head up.

FIRST EXERCISE. Raise arms sideways to horizontal position. Turn the palms upward and force the arms back as far as possible. While in this position, count slowly from one to four, and at each count describe a complete circle about i 2 inches in diameter, the arms remaining stiff and pivoting from the shoulders. Then reverse the direction of the circles, and do another four.


The second of these exercises we will, call "Playing the Bird," for the motions, as you will easily see, are like those of a gull's wings, the arms and hands being lifted up to an angle of about 45 degrees and then lowered until they are horizontal. At the same time you go up on your toes and breathe in, filling the lungs as the arms go up, and letting the breath come out again as arms and feet go down.

SECOND EXERCISE. Raise arms sideways to horizontal. While taking a deep breath, raise the arms to an angle of 45 degrees, and also raise the heels until you are resting on the balls of the feet. Then, while you slowly let out the breath, come back to the original position, feet flat on the floor, arms horizontal. Be careful not to raise the arms more than 45 degrees, or return them to below horizontal. Do this four times. See Fig. II.


The third exercise we will call "Under the Low Bridge." When you follow the directions, you will find that you are stooping down with your fingers pressed against the back of your head, but that you are looking up as if you wanted to make sure that you would go safely under the bridge.

THIRD EXERCISE. Raise arms, as before, to horizontal. Place hands behind the neck, index fingers touching, elbows forced back. While in this position, bend the body slowly forward from the waist as far as possible. Keep the head up as you go down, so that the eyes are still looking forward or toward the leader, if you are doing the exercise with a group of other children. Return to upright position, and bend backward just a little. Do not make these movements jerky and do not hurry through them. Repeat the whole movement, bending forward, then straightening up, then bending backward four times. See Fig. III.


We will call the fourth exercise "Drinking the Air," for that is what it really is. By following the directions, you curl your fists up under your armpits, at the same time drawing in the breath and letting the head and shoulders go back until you are looking up straight in the air. Then, as you put the arms forward and commence to bend down, you breathe out, letting the air go slowly out of your lungs while the hands and arms go back past the body and up as high over your back as possible.

FOURTH EXERCISE. (A) Raise arms, as before, to horizontal. Move the right foot sideways 12 inches from the left. Slowly bend the fists and lower arms downward from the elbows. Then curl the fists upward into the armpits, bending the head backward mean-while until you look upward at the ceiling. Take a deep breath as you bend the head back. Let the air begin to come out slowly, as you return to the original position, head erect, fists still in the armpits. See Fig. IV A.

(B) Then without resting, still letting the breath come out, extend. the arms straight forward from the shoulders, palms down. Let the arms begin to fall and the body to bend forward from the waist, head up, eyes to the front, until the body has bent as far as possible, and the arms have passed the sides and been forced back and up as far as they will go. Another deep breath should be taken slowly as you curl your arms again, and exhaled as they come down once more.


The fifth exercise we will call "Swimming the Crawl," that is, swimming the crawl stroke, for, as one arm and hand go up in the air, the other arm and hand slide down the side of the body.

FIFTH EXERCISE. Raise arms sideways to horizontal. Turn the left palm upward; then raise the left arm and lower the right, until the right is down close to the side, and the left is straight up overhead. Slowly bend the body sideways to the right from the waist, the right arm slipping down the right leg to or be-low the knee, and the left arm bending in half a circle downward over the head, until the fingers touch the right ear. Return to original position, with arms horizontal, and go down the other way, the left arm slipping along the left leg, the right arm bending downward in half a circle over the left ear. Do this four times.


The sixth exercise is called "Playing the Frog." Here, extending the arms sideways straight out from the shoulders, keeping the back straight and standing on the toes, you go down, gathering the legs under you just as the frog does when he is preparing to leap. You should be careful to keep on the toes and to keep the body well balanced.

SIXTH EXERCISE. Move the right foot sideways until the heels are about 12 inches apart. Raise arms to horizontal. Rise on the ball of the foot. Bend the knees and, with the weight on the toes, lower the body almost to the heels, keeping the trunk as nearly erect as possible. Return to original position, knees straight, and let the heels go down to the floor. Do this four times.


We will call the seventh exercise "Swaying in the Gale," for when your arms are extended straight up against the ears, and your hands are clasped, the body is like the mast of a ship. You sway your body around in a circle, as the mast of a ship sways in a gale.

SEVENTH EXERCISE. Raise arms to horizontal. Stretch the arms straight above the head, interlock the fingers, arms touching ears. Then, the arms being still straight up, describe a complete circle about 24 inches in diameter with the interlocked hands, the body bending only at the waist. Do this three times.

Then repeat the movement three times, in the opposite direction.

Go through the entire movement slowly. and steadily, bending the body chiefly from the hips.


The eighth exercise we will call "Sowing the Wheat." Keeping the arms extended and turning at the hips, you first place one hand on the ground, bending the knee on the side towards which you go down, and keeping the other knee straight. Then, having touched the ground with one hand, you swing up and, turning the body, place the other hand on the ground in the same way, bending the other knee.

EIGHTH EXERCISE (A). Move the right foot until the heels are about 12 inches apart. Raise arms to horizontal and turn the body to the left from the hips, the arms remaining horizontal until the face is to the left, the right arm pointing straight forward, and the left arm straight backward.

(B) While in this position, bend the body from the waist, so that the right arm goes down until the right fingers touch the floor midway between the feet, and the left arm goes up. The right knee must be slightly bent to accomplish this.

Reverse the movement, turning the body to the right this time until the left hand points straight for-ward. Then bend downward until the fingers of the left hand touch the floor. Return to the original position.

After you have mastered the exercise, you can go through it (A and B) in one continuous motion.

Repeat the whole exercise (A and B), first to the right, then to the Jeff, four times.


The ninth exercise is called "Learning to Fly." In this exercise you lift the arms straight up over the head, taking in a good breath at the same time. Then you begin to lean forward at the waist, letting the arms come down past the hips. At the same time you let out the breath from the lungs and carry the arms back above the shoulders as you did in the exercise of "Drinking the Air." By this time, the breath is out of the lungs, and as you bring the hands down past the hips and out in front of you, you begin to inhale. Then you spread the hands and arms apart, out to the horizontal, taking in a little more breath. By the time you finally lift the hands directly above the head, as in the first motion, you have a full breath of air in the lungs.

NINTH EXERCISE. Raise arms to horizontal, taking in a slow breath; then upward until they are straight overhead. Let them fall forward and downward, while the body bends forward from the waist, until the arms have passed the sides, and been forced upward and backward as far as possible, just as in Exercise 5, Fig. V. Remember, as you bend forward, to keep the head up, and the eyes to the front and let the breath come out.

Straighten the body upright again with the arms overhead, drawing in the breath. Lower the arms to the horizontal position, with the palms turned downward, and the arms and shoulders forced hard back. Then bring the arms out to horizontal, and begin the movement again by raising them as before.

Repeat this entire movement slowly four times, forcing the air out of the lungs as the body bends forward, and filling the lungs again as the body straightens.

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