Exercise

Exercise

Nature demands of us that we use our mental and physical powers in order to get the best results. Man was made to be active. In former times he had to earn his bread in the sweat of his face or starve. Now we have evolved, or is it a partial degeneration, into a state where a sharp mind commands much more of the means of sustenance than does physical exertion. The consequence is that many of those equipped with the keenest minds fail to keep their bodies active. This helps to lessen their resistance and produces early death.

Some exercise is needed and the question is, how much is necessary and how is it to be taken so that 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 the 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, unless the intention is to become an exhibit for the sake of earning one's living. Big muscles do not spell health, efficiency and endurance. Even a dyspeptic may be able to build big muscles. What is needed for the work of life is not a burst of strength that lasts for a few moments and then leaves the individual exhausted for the day, but the endurance which enables one to forge ahead day after day.

It is generally dangerous to build up great muscles, for if the exercises that brought them into being are stopped, they begin to degenerate 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 or typhoid fever.

The great muscles exhibited from time to time upon the variety stage and in circuses are not normal. Man is the only animal that develops them, and they are not brought about by ordinary circumstances. Once acquired, they prove a burden, for they demand much daily work to be kept in condition.

Good muscles are more serviceable than extraordinary ones. Vigorous exercise is better than violent exercise. It is well known that many of our picked athletes, men with great original physical endowment, die young. The reason is that they have either been overdeveloped, or at some time they have overtaxed their bodies so in a supreme effort at vanquishing their opponents that a part of the vital mechanism has been seriously affected. Then when they settle down to business life they fail to take good care of themselves and they degenerate rapidly.

Exercising should not be a task, for then it is work. It should be of a kind that interests and pleases the individual, for then it is accompanied by that agreeable mental state from which great good will come 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 take exercises for the part of the body above the waist, plus some walking 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 and touching the floor with the fingers. Then bend backward as far as possible. Then with hands on the hips rotate the body from the waist.

It is very desirable to keep the body erect, for this gives the greatest amount of lung space, and gives the individual a noble, courageous appearance and feeling. The forward slouch is the position of the ape. It is not necessary to pay any attention to the shoulders, if the spine is kept in proper position, for the shoulders will then fall into the right place. 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.

Those who are moderate in eating need less exercise than others. Too great food intake requires much labor to work it off. When the food is but enough to supply materials for repair, heat and energy, there is no need of great effort 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 you.

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 producing 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 one 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. Men and women were not shaped to wear two and three inch heels. Those who persist in this folly must pay the price in discomfort and an unbalanced body.

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 exercise interferes with digestion. A very good plan is to take from five to twenty-five minutes of exercise, according to one's requirement, before dressing in the morning and after undressing at night. Those who take exercises in a gymnasium or have time for out door games will have no difficulty in selecting proper time.

Dumbbells, Indian clubs, weights, patent exercisers and gymnasium stunts are all right for those who enjoy them. One thing to bear in mind is that short, choppy movements are not as good as the larger movements that bring the big muscles into play.

It is well to exercise until there is a comfortable feeling of fatigue. If this is done the heart works vigorously, sending the blood rapidly to all parts of the body, and the lungs also come into full play to supply the needed oxygen. This acts as a tonic to the entire system.

The body must be used to keep it from degenerating. 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 taking but two or three minutes at a time at first, and increasing until the desired amount is taken daily.

If the muscles get 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. Excessive enthusiasm is like the burning love of those who "can't live" without the object of their affection. It burns so brightly that it soon consumes itself. Go to work at a rate that can be kept up. 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 occasionally let a day or two pass by without taking exercise with benefit. Avoid getting into a monotonous grind.

I believe that the very best exercises are those which are taken in the spirit of play. No matter who it is, if he or she will make the effort, time enough can be found occasionally to spend at least one-half of a day 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. Many immediately say, "I can't." Get rid of that negative attitude and say, "I can and I will." See how quickly the obstacles melt away. There are many who are slaves to duty. They believe that they must grind away. They think they are indispensable. The world got along very well before they were born and it will roll on in the same old way after they are gathered to their fathers. The thing to do is to break the bonds of the wrong mental attitude and then both time and opportunity will be forthcoming.

I shall comment on only a few of the outdoor exercises that are excellent.

Swimming is one of the finest. There is a great deal of difference between swimming and taking a bath in a tub. Some people cannot remain in the water long, 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 laid down for the duration of a swim, but very thin people should generally not remain in the water more than fifteen minutes, and stout, vigorous ones not over an hour. It is best not to go swimming until two hours have elapsed since the last meal.

Every boy and every girl should be taught to swim, for it may be the means of preserving their lives. It is not difficult. For the benefit of those who start the beginners with the rather tedious and tiresome breast stroke, will say that the easiest way to teach swimming is to get the learner to float on his back. I have taught boys to float in as little as three minutes, and after that everything else is easy. When the beginner can float, he can easily start to paddle a little and make some progress. Then he can turn on his side and learn the side stroke, which is one of the best. Then he can turn on the face and learn various strokes. This is not the approved way of learning to swim, but it is the easiest and quickest way.

To float simply means to get into balance in the water. It is necessary to arch the body, making the spine concave posteriorly, and bending the neck well backward at first. In the beginning it is a great aid to fill the lungs well and breathe rather shallow. This makes the body light in the water. Tell the beginner that it does not make any difference whether the feet sink or stay up. It is only necessary to keep the face above water while floating. If there is the slightest tendency to sink, bend the neck a little more, putting the head, farther back in the water, instead of raising it, as most of the learners want to do. Remember that the trunk and neck must be kept well arched, the head well back in the water. The moment the beginner doubles up at waist or hips or bends the neck forward, raising the head, he sinks.

For speed and fancy swimming professional instruction should be obtained. Swimming is one of the best all-round developers, as well as one of the most pleasant of exercises.

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. The full vigorous strokes, followed with a walk after the ball, then more strokes, exercise the entire body. It is good for young and old, and for people in all walks of life.

Tennis is splendid for some people. Those who are very nervous and excitable should play at something else, for they are apt to play too hard and use up too much energy. Overexercising is just 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 a fine exercise. The companionship with an intelligent animal, the freedom, the fresh air, the scenery, all give enjoyment of life, and the constant movement acts as a most delicious tonic. There is only one correct way to ride for both sexes, and that is astride. The side saddle position keeps the spine twisted so that it takes away much of the benefit to be derived from riding. Out west the approved manner of riding for women is astride. The women of the west make a fine appearance on horseback.

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. Fine apparel under the circumstances spoils more than half of the pleasure.

Playing ball or bicycle riding may be indulged in with benefit. It is not fashionable to ride on bicycles today, yet it is a pleasant mode of covering ground, and if the trunk is kept erect it is a good exercise. 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, osteopathic treatment or vibratory treatment. If anything is wrong with the spine, get an osteopath or a chiropractor. They can help to remedy such defects more quickly than anyone else. They are experts in adjustments and thrusts.

Some people 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. Another is to lie down, then bend the body at the hips, getting into a sitting position; repeat a few times. Another is to face the floor, holding the body rigid, supported on the toes and the palms of the hands; slowly raise the body until the arms are straight and slowly lower it again until the abdomen touches the floor; repeat several times.

It is impossible to go into detail regarding various exercises here. Those who wish to take care of themselves can easily devise a number of good ones, or they can employ a physical culture teacher to give them pointers. Here as elsewhere, good sense wins out. It is not necessary to give much time to exercise, but a little is valuable. Those who labor with their hands often use but few muscles, and it would be well for them to take corrective exercises so that the body will remain in good condition.

There is no excuse for round shoulders and sunken chests. A few weeks, or at most a few months, will correct this 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. A little training will enable you to drop everything, and 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. Eye strain is very exhausting to the whole body and often results in serious discomfort.

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 dead. People who do much mental work are at times so aroused by ideas that refuse to release their hold until they have been worked out or given expression that they can not sleep for the time being. A few minutes of relaxation then gives rest. When the problem has been solved, the worker is rewarded with sweet slumbers. An occasional night of this kind of wakefulness does no harm, provided no such drugs as coffee, alcohol, strychnine and morphine are used.

We are undoubtedly intended to be useful. Normal men and women are not content unless they are helpful. Hence we have our work or vocation. However, people who get into a rut, and they are liable to if they work all the time at one thing, lose efficiency. Therefore it is well to have an avocation or a hobby to sharpen mind and body.

It does not make much difference what the hobby is, provided it is interesting. We waste much time that could give us more pleasure if it were intelligently employed. An hour a day given to a subject for a few years in the spirit of play will give a vast fund of information and may in time be of inestimable benefit.

Those who labor much with the hands would do well to take some time each day for mental recreation, and those who work in mental channels should get joy and benefit from physical efforts. A few hobbies, depending upon circumstances, may be: Photography, music, a foreign language, the drama, literature, history, philosophy, painting, gardening, raising chickens, dogs or bees, floriculture, and botany. Some people have become famous through their hobbies. They are excellent for keeping the mind fluid, which helps to retain physical youth.

There is something peculiarly beneficial about tending and watching growing and unfolding things. It is well known that women remain young longer than men. We have good reason to believe that one of the causes is their intimate relation with children. Growing flowers, vegetables, chickens and pups have the same influence in lesser degree. Tender, helpless things bring out the best qualities in our natures. We can not be on too intimate terms with nature, so, if possible, select a hobby that brings you closely in contact with her and her products.