Health - Exercise
( Originally Published 1938 )
Do You know of any more delicious feeling than the one which glows through your whole body when you sink into a comfy chair after a brisk workout or sit down to enjoy a piping hot meal? I'm sure I don't. And if you're anything like me, you feel as if you could conquer the world. But you'd be a kindly conqueror so pleased you are with the world and with yourself.
We all exercise for the sheer joy of it. But this joy isn't the same as the one we experience when we see our favorite movie star come out on top. It is far more fundamental than that. Consciously or otherwise, we realize that we are doing what Nature has intended us to do what all animal life must do. For motion is necessary for life it is more it is Life itself.
The health of both mind and body depend upon motion. Inaction means stagnation, and stagnation means ill-health and eventually death. Hence the necessity for exercise. As it has oft been stated, disuse is as fatal to a piece of machinery whether man or man made as excessive use is; in fact, both can and are quite likely to rust out rather than to wear out. Activity is essential to life and health, and can never be harmful, provided that moderation moderation for your own particular constitution is observed and the muscular system is not strained or overworked.
There are thousands of miles of minute tubing in the human body the arterioles, veins, capillaries and lymphatic vessels. They ramify through every portion of the tissues, the first carrying the vitalized blood for nourishment of the parts of the body; the second re-turning the impure blood, charged with the waste of the structures; the third being the intermediary stage between the first and second; while the fourth and last, the lymphatic vessels, collect the surplus nutrition and return into the circulation. In addition, the lymphatics assist in the conveyance of effete matter. Whenever disease germs are present in the system, they first manifest themselves in the lymph, but this fluid, being densely populated with phagocytes, that is, germ destroying white corpuscles, the micro-organisms are speedily destroyed if the body is in a healthy, vigorous condition.
In view of the vital character of these body fluids, the activity of motion is indispensable for the best performance of their separate functions. It is exercise that supplies the desired stimulus. Whenever a muscle is contracted the blood is wholly or partially expelled from it, depending upon the force of the contraction, and in its escape it carries with it the waste material. But as soon as the muscles are relaxed, fresh blood from the arterial supply re-enters the structure, bearing fresh nutrition.
By a wise provision of Nature, the amount of nutrition is always in excess of the waste products removed; that is, all things being equal, the more exercise a part is subjected to, the more nutrition it receives. This explains the unusual development of certain parts of the body, such as the legs or arms,when they are called into excessive use in certain occupations.
The reason for this is perfectly simple, and may be expressed in two words unequal nutrition for the muscles that are unduly exercised appropriate the nutriment that should be equally distributed, so that the neglected muscles become weakened and stiff. Hence, any system of exercise designated to develop the body should be so arranged that every muscle in the body is called into play, thus insuring harmonious development in every direction.
Many persons think of muscular exercise only in relation to the development of their external or skeletal muscles. This is very natural, for the results are more quickly observed on the surface, both by the exerciser and his associates. But exercise has a most beneficial effect on the internal, involuntary muscles and on the vital processes carried out with their aid on digestion, assimilation, nutrition, elimination. This is. because the involuntary muscles, while we can-not exercise them through the will, depend for their tone to a considerable extent on the tone of the external muscles. Moreover, their tone also depends upon a normal amount of healthy, nourishing blood which can only be had if the skeletal muscles are sufficiently exercised. When this is so, the digestive powers work more briskly to prepare the needed nourishment, and the blood circulates more rapidly to carry the material for repair to the parts that need it, so that by moderate physical exercise, judiciously distributed, the whole body is built up and strengthened. The result is a suppleness of frame, perfectly functioning organs and a clearness of head that make life indeed worth living.
To the invalid, of course, it is idle to talk of active exercise, but there are certain forms of passive exercise accessible to such people. Massage, for instance, which, judiciously administered, will do for the sick, in a modified degree, what active exercise will do for the comparatively well. It will stimulate the circulation in the deeper tissues, and set the various fluids of the body moving in a beneficial manner. There is also a mild form of active exercise which may be practiced by those who have the misfortune to be confined to bed, and that is by tensing the muscles; such as clenching the hands and contracting the toes, also by gentle contraction of the arms and legs alternately.
If we could live in accordance to the laws of Nature, most of our exercise would be done outdoors, in the sunshine and fresh air, and it would not be done with the conscious idea of exercising for the benefits derived therefrom, but merely as a medium for work and play. Unfortunately, our lives are so ordered in this modern machine age, that most of our exercise is performed principally or for the sole purpose of maintaining a normal muscle tone and the consequent vibrant health. This is particularly true of city dwellers, but many country-dwellers, especially in the winter, find that exercise, other than their work, is necessary for good health.
So we have two forms of exercise, performed principally for the purpose of maintaining health, although other objects may be involved. The first includes exercise in the form of games performed in competition with others and usually out of doors. The second includes sets of exercise, carefully devised to bring every muscle into play, and without any element of competition.
While they differ markedly, many basic rules are the same for both of them. So, before discussing the various types of exercise which respectively comprise them, let us point out these basic rules.
First of all, no strenuous, even moderately strenuous exercise should be performed immediately after eating. This is because the blood is drawn away from the stomach during exercise and indigestion is likely to result. The interval between eating and exercise depends upon the amount and kind of food eaten, as well as upon one's particular constitution. To allow an hour to elapse is a good rule, but many find that a shorter interval causes no strain or discomfort, while others have learned through experience that two hours is better. Similarly, it is better to wait a while before eating after such strenuous exercise as tennis or base ball.
In all forms of exercise the clothing should be as light and unrestricting as possible. Moreover, the body should be exposed as much as possible to allow the beneficent rays of the sun to fall directly upon the skin. But on the other hand, don't burn your skin with too much sunshine. Sunburn can be just as serious as a steam or fire burn. Generally speaking, brunettes can endure direct exposure to the rays of the sun better than fair skinned persons.
Similarly, don't overdo your exercising. If you feel exhausted rather than refreshed and relaxed after exercising, if you find it difficult to catch your breath, or if your heart keeps racing, you may be sure you have exercised too strenuously. Exercise should leave you with a nice comfy feeling all over your body, a keen appetite and a clear mind. To be sure, if you haven't been getting the proper amount of exercise, your muscles will feel a little stiff and sore at first, but within a short time all soreness will disappear.
Exercise for only a short period at first, and never beyond the point when you start feeling achy. Increase the length and vigor of your exercise gradually. For example, if you are just starting to do a bending exercise and trying to touch the floor with your finger tips, bend down only five times the first day, and increase the number of times by five each day, every other day, or every week, until you can bend fifty times without feeling any ill effects.
And remember this no set of exercise, no sport or game is going to be really beneficial unless you perform it regularly and frequently. In this respect exercise is no different from any other thing we do for health's sake. You wouldn't think of bathing only once a month, even if you took a whole day off to do it; nor would you eat only once a month, or rid your bowels of the poisonous waste matter clogging it only once a month. This is because you know that the vital processes are constantly being carried on in your body tissue is constantly being broken down and must be repaired or replaced, daily the indigestible matter left over from the food we eat must be eliminated and likewise, daily our skin is covered with a film of dirt, dead cuticle, perspiration and oil. In just the same way, we learned, the tissues need to be strengthened by life-giving blood and can only get the proper amount through exercise.
Finally, all exercise must be packed with fun and joy, if you really want to benefit from it. The reasons for this are obvious. It is impossible, no matter how conscientious you are, to exercise with the right amount of zest with the zest that brings vigor and quickness to your movements, if you are bored. And if you are at all human and you are you are sure to skip a day or two of exercise, perhaps even a week.
Psychology influences the value of exercise in even another way. There is really no distinction between mind and body when distinction is made, it is done largely for the sake of convenience. The functioning of our minds is governed by nerves, blood and other tissues, just as much as the rest of the body. When the mind is sick or worried, it is sure to be manifested in the functioning of the rest of the body. Indigestion, constipation, loss of appetite and many other disorders appear. Similarly, when some other part of our bodies, no matter how remote, is not in good running order, it is sure to be manifested in the state of our minds. We are despondent, irritable, or slow of wit. In other words, a happy frame of mind is conducive to good health, and good health brings a happy frame of mind. So, when you are doing something that you really like to do, something which is simply loads of fun and which you keenly miss if you have to forego the pleasure of doing, it's just bound to make you feel good all over.
And now we are ready for the exercises proper. Whether you are exercising out-of-doors or whether you are going through your setting up exercises indoors, there are two exercises which must be mastered first of all. If they are not, you will get only half the pleasure and benefit from your exercises that you rightfully should. These exercises are standing correctly and breathing correctly. To call them exercises may seem rather strange to you, but when once you begin to try to master these arts, you'll certainly agree that they are really exercises.
While they are of equal importance and are equally the basis of all other exercises, the art of standing correctly must be mastered first. Otherwise it is impossible to learn to breathe correctly and exercise your lungs. Hence we shall first consider the art of standing properly.
THE ART OF STANDING PROPERLY
Tomorrow, or today if you can, carefully observe the people about you. Whether you know anything about anatomy or not, you'll instinctively realize that very few are standing correctly. You'll probably be seized with an almost incontrollable desire to push in the stomach of this one, tilt the chin of that, draw back the shoulders of another. Why? Probably because they look so unaesthetic. The correct posture is the beautiful one, and the only beautiful one. Strangely enough, women on the whole, are the chief offenders. They will spend hours in the beauty salon trying to keep the youthfulness of their skin and hair, and yet stiffly wobble about or thump along on high heels. It seldom occurs to them that by standing correctly they will avoid those dreaded double chins and spare tire waists.
The correct standing position and few realize this is a comfortable, easy and graceful carriage, even though at first it might seem awkward. The weight should rest on the balls of the feet, the shoulders should be drawn back until the back is flat and the head raised with the chin drawn in slightly. The abdominal muscles must be drawn in and the waist line lifted so that it doesn't feel or look as if the upper part of your body was settled into your hips.
The right position should always be maintained,whether you are exercising, working or merely standing. This is not only for beauty's sake, but for health's sake as well. It will help you to breathe correctly and will enable your internal organs to keep their tone and to function properly, since they are occupying the position intended for them and hence receive the nourishment that is rightfully theirs.