Why Be Tired:
Energy For Sedentary Workers
How To Do More Work Without Getting Tired
Conquering Your Fatigue Problem With Food
Improving Your Energy Machine With Exercise
Use Your Glandular Energies
Sex And Energy
Test Your Efficiency
Improving Your Energy Machine With Exercise
( Originally Published 1936 )
YOUR work puts no athletic strain on you so you hardly see the need of regular physical exercise. You are reasonably tired at night and perhaps think exercise would add to this fatigue. Finally, energy comes from food so you reason that you provide for energy by eating well.
Will exercise benefit you, a non-athlete ?
Now let us suppose that you were late yesterday morning and ran several blocks to catch the bus. After you sat down, uncomfortable symptoms forced them-selves on your attention. You were breathless, your heart pounded rapidly, and you were excessively hot. Maybe you resolved not to be late any more. You should have, instead, made an estimate of what these symptoms told you about your energy machine, the machine which also generates your energy for non-athletic activities. It was your heart that tired, not your legs.
Suppose that had been your car. Easy driving had not told you that it needed repair, but you had to make a quick trip and noticed that the engine lacked power, knocked and became overheated. The unusual strain served as a test. When you returned from the trip you took your car to a mechanic. You were not going to make any more quick trips right away, but you knew that an inefficient engine was still inefficient on easy level roads and would cost you money in gas and oil.
Neither do you intend to run after the bus often, but you do want to be efficient in your every-day, level-road activities. We do not give a hang if your leg muscles are flabby, but let us use this sudden spurt as a test and see what it tells about your central energy machine.
You got too hot. That means wasteful heat instead of useful energy. You ate good food that morning and your body burned it, but burning food in a furnace makes heat and will not make energy. Burning gas in a furnace will not make energy ; it must be changed into energy by an energy machine. Burning food in your body will not make energy if your energy ma-chine is not in condition to handle it. You are as interested in the efficiency of that energy machine as any athlete. That energy machine is composed of your vital organs.
You proved that they were inefficient. They will still be inefficient when you sit down to your work. You will tire too easily, your work will not be of high quality, you will hang back instead of reaching ahead, and you will require too much rest. No matter what kind of work you are doing, you can profit by peak efficiency. You should make a point of testing your efficiency now and then so you can know what it is doing.
If you had an ulcerated tooth that cut your efficiency in half you would not say that, since you are a sedentary worker, it did not matter. You do not hold that, since you are a sedentary worker, you should eat only half as well as a man who needs a physical type of vigor. You know, in fact, that the active man need be less careful of his hygiene and diet than you. A complete lack of physical exercise will also cut your efficiency in half ; and even though your work requires no muscular vigor, it again holds true that the sedentary man gains more by taking regular exercise than any other type of worker.
Nutrition is incomplete without exercise.
You have associated physical exercise too closely with the muscular conditioning of athletes ; you should know in some detail how exercise increases the efficiency of the more important energy machine, the machine used alike by business man and athlete. Since we have admitted an interest in maximum nutrition, let us begin with the effects of exercise upon the digestion of food and, more particularly, the conversion of food into energy. As you know, the best of food is no guarantee that your energy machine will not be flabby and listless.
Appetite is a great aid to digestion and exercise is a great aid to appetite. Furthermore, it stimulates the appetite to call for plain and wholesome energy foods rather than tongue-pleasers. Exercise is also necessary for stomach health and digestion, intestinal health and digestion, and for best colonic elimination. It is a great aid to the assimilation and circulation of digested food. You can find these facts listed in any book on nutrition.
But these facts are not our chief concern. You eat to feed your tissues, not your stomach. You are not fed until food enters your tissues. Since your most active tissues are muscles, and since 45% of you is muscular tissue, most of your food goes to your muscles. That is where all of your mechanical energy is made. If food does not get into your muscles you are like an automobile with a full gas-tank but a clogged gas-line. Exercise is more important in relation to these uses of digested food than it is to digestion itself.
How does food get into a muscle cell through the cell covering or jacket ? Did you ever stop to think about that ? It is a complicated electro-chemical process which cannot take place when a muscle is resting.* Consequently, a muscle seldom completely rests ; each cell continually pulses with minute rhythmic contractions which regulate its feeding. You can estimate the activity of these feeding rhythms by feeling a muscle and noting its tone, or its firmness and elasticity. An exercised muscle is of good tone, firm and elastic. The sedentary muscle is flabby and inelastic.
It is correct to say, then, that an unexercised muscle has a poor appetite, that it does not eat heartily. The sedentary man may eat well, but he does not feed his tissues well. His food goes halfway and sticks. When he runs he will produce a lot of heat, but since the food is not in his muscles he will not produce much mechanical energy.
You may remind me at this point that we are not particularly interested in the external, athletic muscles. No, not particularly. It would be a waste of time and energy for you to develop the spring-steel legs of a runner or the arms of a blacksmith. But the general health of your muscles, 45% of you, is worth some consideration ; you should keep their tone good enough to feed them well. After all, muscles are your most important heat-regulating organs ; elastic muscle-tone is a great aid to circulation ; and healthy muscles make you feel pretty swell. You need not train your muscles, but you should feed them.
However, our chief interest in these muscles is secondary and indirect. We have seen that fatigue poisons, no matter where they are formed, get into the blood and poison every tissue in the body ; that "physical" fatigue tires your mind as much as "mental" fatigue. Therefore, you do not care to be dragged down by muscles so inefficient that they make light movement and even posture a weary matter. There is a lot of that around, too, making people fall into chairs and struggle out of them. That is the particular reason why you prefer alert muscles to half-dead ones. To keep your muscles thus alert for light duty, adding to your fine feeling rather than to your fatigue, you need not go into training ; but you do need the mini-mum of exercise necessary to keep your muscles well fed.
There is another question of nutrition. You eat three times every twenty-four hours. Between meals your body is supposed to use stored food. Where is this food stored ? It is stored chiefly in your liver and muscles. Naturally the sedentary muscle does not store food well, since it does not feed well. The sedentary liver also loses some of its power to store food. So the sedentary man tends to store his surplus food as fat. Fat is not nearly so available for energy as food stored in the muscles and liver. It becomes lazy and sluggish energy, you might say, just as you might say that food stored in the muscles and liver is energetic energy, ready to go. There are many people carrying around stored food which they might as well have left in the kitchen. This particular fact does a lot to determine whether you are energetic or sluggish, ready for activity or ready to sit down.
Nor have we completed nutrition. When food is burned and energy formed poisons also are formed. Stoves have chimneys and automobiles have exhausts to get rid of the poisonous gases. You have organs to eliminate these poisons, the colon, kidneys, liver, lungs and skin. If you do not eliminate them they quickly outweigh the energy you get from food and produce fatigue. The better you eliminate them, the less fatigue you have. Getting rid of these poisons is the last but not the least process of nutrition.
Exercise reacts upon the colon to keep its muscles in good condition so that it can carry food waste on to elimination at the proper time. Exercise stimulates the kidneys, liver and lungs to eliminate better. The eliminative activity of the skin, as you know; is tremendously increased by exercise. The skin is a more important organ of elimination than is commonly known ; cover it with a non-porous substance and death results in a few hours. The bettered circulation produced by exercise also removes fatigue poisons from the tissues more quickly and completely, and is more efficient in carrying them to the eliminative organs. Finally, the healthy muscle produces less fatigue poison for a given amount of work and actually develops an antitoxin to counteract the effects of fatigue. That is why the amount of exercise necessary for efficient energy will not add to your fatigue and demand more rest ; you will have less fatigue and need less rest.
Conditioning your central energy machine.
Important though those things are, they are not the most valuable results of exercise for the sedentary man.
How does food get from your stomach to your muscles ? How does it burn after it gets into your muscles ? How do fatigue poisons get out of your tissues and to your eliminative organs ? The blood carries food to your muscles, then carries oxygen to burn the food, then carries away the poisons of fatigue. This blood flows through the veins and arteries, gets oxygen from the lungs and is pumped by the heart.
These organs might be called the central energy ma-chine. They serve not only the muscles, but are equally important to all tissues. They furnish mental and nervous energy, remove mental and nervous fatigue poisons. So while the athlete is more interested in his athletic muscles than you are, you are just as interested in your central energy machine as he is. And you are just as interested in keeping it efficient as he is. Perhaps you think it takes care of its own efficiency, but it does not.
You have a weak heart.
For instance, you have a weak heart. Oh, not dangerously weak, but too weak to be as efficient as I want my central energy machine. How do I know that ? First, I know it because Sir James MacKenzie, M.D., who did so much experimental work on diseased hearts during the war, says that the heart is a muscle which deteriorates as much from sedentary living as any other muscle.* Second, I know it because your heart pounded rapidly when you ran after that bus.
You knew, yourself, that your heart was pounding too rapidly. It did that because when a weak heart is asked to pump more blood it can do so only by in-creasing its speed. Great speed is bad because it gives the heart no time to rest between beats, or breaks the restful rhythm which we considered in a previous chap-ter, so that it tires quickly. It also forces blood through the lungs so fast that it has not time to take up much oxygen, and breathlessness or oxygen starvation results. Furthermore, oxygen is used in removing fatigue poisons as well as in forming energy, so fatigue poisons ac-cumulate rapidly and you tire quickly and will have sore muscles tomorrow.
We have reliable figures on all that. Lindhard measured the amount of blood pumped per beat by an unexercised heart ; it was 62 cubic centimeters. He conditioned this man with exercise and then his heart pumped 103 cubic centimeters, and could beat more slowly and still do more work than in the beginning.* That was because it was stronger and could pump more blood by contracting more strongly rather than more rapidly. This slower, stronger beat is so much better for preventing heart fatigue, for carrying oxygen to the tissues and removing poisons from them, that Evans and Matsuoko rate the efficiency of the untrained heart at 7.3, of the trained heart at 28.2. Do you think it worth your time to multiply the efficiency of your central energy machine by four ? Remember, every function of your body is impaired by an inefficient heart.
How do you exercise your central energy machine ? You cannot exercise your heart by taking thought, as you can flex your bicep. No, but when you exercise your athletic muscles you exercise your heart because it must work harder to pump extra blood. When you ran for that bus you exercised your heart — maybe a little too vigorously. If you take regular exercise, be-ginning mildly and gradually working up to a pretty good stint, you are strengthening your central energy machine quite as much as any other muscles. That is the chief reason why you are interested, even as a non-athlete, in a little regular muscular exercise.
Exercise and nervous fatigue.
Since the central energy machine supplies energy to the brain and nerves and removes fatigue poisons from them, it is obvious that conditioning the central energy machine is as advantageous to the brain and nerves as to any other tissues. It is not commonly understood how great this advantage is and should like to mention some of the good research which has been done in this direction. But that would be somewhat outside the scope of this book, and the universal adoption of physical exercise by our schools should stress its value sufficiently. However, since nervous fatigue is our greatest energy problem I am going to mention several specific and valuable ways in which physical exercise helps to solve this problem.
Physical exercise actually exercises the nerves and in-creases their efficiency in the same way and in about the same amount as it increases muscular energy. All the messages carried to the muscles, all the co-ordinations of muscular movements, mean exercise for the nerves. Dr. R. Tait McKenzie, formerly Professor of Physical Education, University of Pennsylvania, who has done so much toward making exercise a science, states : "The muscles arc the slaves of the nerve-centers and the will tires long before the . . . muscles . . ."
It is even more true of the sedentary worker, of course, that his nerves or "will" tire before he experiences a definite feeling of fatigue ; he simply becomes unable "to make the effort." His nerves are too tired to carry commands. Since muscular exercise also exercises this "will to power," and greatly increases it, as you know in both cases, it means an increase of nervous energy which is of value in all walks of life.
Physical exercise is quite as important for saving nervous energy as for increasing it. The nervous energy you spend at a given task is measured by the amount of effort you put forth. Through strengthening and co-ordinating your muscles you can lessen the amount of effort you put into movement all day long. Your muscles will carry you easily and you will not be "going on your nerve."
Exercise also teaches your nerves to rest. We have mentioned that the most important thing for the athlete to learn is the restful rhythm. Exercise will teach every cell in your body to work with this economical rhythm, just as it teaches the heart to be unexcitable. In time your nerves will become so habituated in this tireless rhythm that they are seldom thrown out of step even by exasperations.
Even while you rest and sleep your exercise will benefit your nervous system. We have seen that a relaxed muscle reflexly relaxes nerves. Tired muscles relax automatically, so that by producing a mild muscular fatigue the entire nervous system can be relaxed. That is why going to bed is pleasant when you tire your muscles, and why sleep comes immediately and is sound and refreshing. The bettered circulation created by exercise combines with relaxation to aid the repair which takes place during sleep. If muscular exercise had no other virtue it would still be worth while in a sedentary world as a balance wheel for nervous fatigue and tension.
How to exercise your vital organs.
The important thing for the sedentary man, then, is exercise which conditions his heart, lungs and blood vessels. This is accomplished by taking a certain kind and amount of general muscular exercise ; this exercise will also insure sufficient tone to keep sedentary muscles healthy and nourished. We are now ready to see what kind of exercise is best suited to this purpose.
Constitutional exercise should be fairly light, never imposing any great strain, but sufficiently prolonged to cause full breathing, strong heart action and a fair amount of perspiration. In amount this exercise should be equivalent to trotting a mile slowly, and taken three times a week. However, you should begin less strenuously than this. Let me take you through a test case.
I have found slow trotting, or very brisk walking, to be one of the best and most convenient constitutional exercises. Let us say that you get off the bus a mile short of home, three times a week. The first time you walk the mile easily, and gradually walk more briskly. About the third week you will begin trotting a hundred yards and walking a hundred alternately for half a mile, and walk the remainder. In three more weeks you will be trotting and walking alternately for the full mile. In six months you will trot the entire mile. You get home, take a brisk shower, tapered off with cold water, and feel like a new man. Bath and all, you can get by in twenty minutes, three times a week.
Some of you will object that public running is un-dignified. You may walk the mile very briskly, though it will be harder on tired nerves than jogging and will not shake up your organs as well. In other cases environment makes this impossible. Running can then be done at another time or some other activity substituted. Some physical condition such as painful arches may make running impractical. In such cases you can take your constitutional lying on your back if you want to.
For a good stint of calisthenics, vigorous enough to cause perspiration, is an extremely good way to get your constitutional. Some men prefer to go to a gymnasium for this and be massaged afterward, but that requires quite a lot of time and money. Swimming, rowing, bicycling, gardening, tennis or other games or sports may be used. They are all excellent if you go by the following rules :
Begin easily, exercise regularly, and gradually in-crease your stint until it is roughly equivalent to trotting a mile. Watch your breathing and your heart ; never get "out of breath" and if your heart beat gets too rapid slow your exercise accordingly. Always stop while you still feel pleasantly exhilarated, and never push yourself to exhaustion. Never exert any great effort ; get results through prolongation of exercise rather than intensity. Follow those rules and you need not worry about your age or your heart ; you will grow younger and your heart will grow stronger.
Balance your type with exercise.
In selecting the type of constitutional exercise you are to take, I have found it extremely valuable to consider your type. Types are frequently spoken of as "character" or "temperament" types. Perhaps they are primarily traits of character, but they also are energy traits. By balancing your particular energy trait with the opposite type of exercise you can become more efficient and moderate your extremes of temperament.
In the man of "nervous temperament" the entire energy machine is nervous or excitable, and on slight provocation will speed up and exhaust itself. That type must never take nervous, fast or exciting exercise he must take slow, methodical exercise such as trotting and train his energy machine in that economical rhythm. So often you go into gymnasiums and find that type going madly at handball, aggravating his energy failings.
The slow, ponderous type, on the other hand, is over in a corner grunting to the slow clank of chest weights — also aggravating his type. He should play the fast, exhilarating games to make his energy machine more nimble — but not overdo, of course.
The ductless glands are rather new medical discoveries and are not yet completely understood. However, we do know that they share in the general improvement brought about by good food and exercise. In short, you can exercise your ductless glands. Doctor Walter Timme recommends exercise for a number of glandular weaknesses. Exercise has been used by medical men for a long time in restoring virility. In my own practice I have had excellent results in cases of poorly functioning thyroid and adrenal glands. Doctor Walter Cannon, who has done such excellent research in this field, suggests physical exercise to "exercise the emotions." The ductless glands are, as you probably know, important sources of vital energy and also manufacture the chemical elements necessary to the emotions.
This idea of "exercising the emotions" is a valuable contribution to physical exercise. It should be of great interest to people who suffer from some variety of emotional fatigue, weakness or indifference toward life. There are quite a few bored, sophisticated and unenthusiastic people around who certainly ought to be told that they are suffering from emotional weakness, not from a "pose" or "philosophy." Their lack of emotional tone selects their dull outlook for them, and they would automatically adopt a happier and more zestful philosophy if they increased their emotional energy.
The next chapter will be devoted to these important glands, but at the moment we must learn how to "exercise" these glands and so furnish a sound physical basis for healthy emotional function. Since these glands are important sources of energy it is not surprising that they are used, or exercised, by all types of physical exercise. Even after a man runs an unexciting Marathon his blood shows an exhaustion of adrenaline. However, the quickening, exciting and pleasant games exercise the ductless glands better. When you feel suddenly stronger or more active in an exciting game it is because your ductless glands have squirted an extra supply of their fluids, or hormones, into your blood. Such games have the additional ad-vantage of arousing your healthy emotions when they are merely asleep, indifferent or sulking ; and they make you forget worries, fears and other negative emodons which depress the energy glands.
So, if you are emotionally tired, sick, depressed or flaccid, provide for your emotional or glandular type when you exercise. Begin slowly, progress slowly, and give your glands from two to six months of easy routine exercise, sound sleep and good food to start them on a sound base of health. As soon as you begin to notice an expanding geniality of spirit, an awakening interest in life, learn some pleasant and stimulating games to lure your emotions out of hiding and give them robust exercises in enthusiasm. No benefit of exercise is more important than this.
Posture, abdomen, skin, vacations.
Exercise has several less important uses which will, however, pay you in the long run.
The Japanese have short legs because they squat on their heels and interfere with circulation. The Japanese Government is offering inducements to make them sit otherwise. We, in turn, sit in such a slouched posture that we may be said to sit upon our stomachs. It is not a habit which will increase health or energy. The Metropolitan Life Insurance booklet on posture likens the bad posture to a bent watch case which presses upon the machinery. Three or four morning exercises which bend your spine in all directions and throw back your shoulders, plus the habit of watching your posture, will be worth the trouble.
Throw in a couple of morning exercises to keep that waistline firm, too. A great deal of blood stagnates in a flaccid abdomen, and blood makes no energy and some trouble when it is out of circulation.
After you get in the habit of taking these morning exercises you will like them. Full awakening usually requires a couple of hours, but exercise has been found to expedite this matter and will do much to help you enjoy your breakfast, your family, and to start for work in a good humor. You know the value of that as well as I do.
Blood can stagnate in a flaccid skin, too, and the skin is important for elimination and heat regulation. It is a pleasant and beneficial habit to taper off your bath with cold water and a brisk rub with a rough towel to exercise your skin.
The human machine was not designed to remain perfectly still for long. Even in sleep we turn and twist often. The vital organs have got in the habit of expecting a little physical movement now and then for stimulation. They slow down when you sit still for hours, and you become inefficient purely through stag-nation. Make a habit of moving around, or breathing deeply for a few minutes, or tensing your muscles a few times, about once every hour.
Get yourself a physical hobby to balance your sedentary life. If you need pleasant emotional stimulation, learn some light game like ping-pong. If you need relaxation turn to something methodical like walking. If you want to forget your troubles or get your conscious mind out of the way while you think, occupy it with woodwork or a mechanical hobby.
Once a year, on your vacation, devote yourself to getting pretty much into physical condition. Man was purely physical for much longer than he has been mental, and a yearly return to the ancestral earth is a sane and healthy thing. It is easy and pleasant to be physical. Lounge around. Go fishing. Build something it pleases you to call a chair. Lounge again. Plant some flowers. Go swimming. Bask in the sun. Take a nap. Start a vegetable garden. Take a walk through the woods. Eat heartily. Go to bed early with a comfortable sense of physical fatigue. Sleep late. Break all the usual rhythms.