We are told by doctors, by teachers of hygiene and physical culture, even by modern beauty specialists, that we must have a certain amount of physical exercise daily if we are to attain to any reasonable standard of health, success, and good looks.
There is no place for the indolent of mind and body in these days of competition; lazy people are simply left behind in the race to console each other for failure. There is no doubt that those who desire to succeed in this world must make the most of themselves physically as well as mentally. They must get their body muscles fit, first of all, because mental ability is dependent upon health.
The chief drawbacks to "physical culture" proper are the number of appliances required, the time involved, and the constant practice necessary to keep in training. The attendant expense, also, is not to be ignored, and it is somewhat of a tax to spend even two afternoons or evenings a week in a gymnasium. But, according to the skipping enthusiasts, one can avoid all that and yet obtain all the physical exercise required if one will only take up skipping. It is the best and simplest, the easiest and cheapest exercise, next to walking, that exists. It takes up less time than any other measure, and has far-reaching results, from the point of view both of health and beauty.
Nothing is required except a piece of rope, with or without handles at the ends. By devoting ten minutes twice daily to the exercise 1 physical ills will vanish automatically. Children who are too fat must skip. If too thin, skipping will give an appetite, exercise the digestive organs, and improve nutrition better than any tonic in the world. If "liverish" or irritable, or inclined to be morose, skipping twice daily for a month will effect a cure.
The most important health advantage claimed for skipping is that it strengthens the heart and lungs. It compels a person to breathe deeply, it quickens the circulation and the pace of the heart-beat. For children it is an ideal exercise, and organised, systematic "skipping drill" is a most valuable health pastime for both boys and girls.
Children, as a rule, like the exercise. For one thing, it is possible to acquire some skill, to excel by practice. The novice is generally clumsy. It takes time before the feet and hands can act in co-ordination or unison with each other and with the brain. The muscular action involved is quite a complicated process, as anyone can prove who will try forward and backward skipping, crossed-hand skipping, and hopping on alternate feet. The beginner will almost certainly skip heavily, and lack the easy lightness and grace of the trained schoolgirl. A child learns wonderfully quickly, and it is well worth while for mother and nurse to make skipping fashionable in the nursery.
First, let us consider the health advantage to the child, the most important point.
Skipping promotes chest development, prevents slouching, and straightens the back and shoulders. It is an excellent arm
The children should learn to skip through a long rope, one after the other. If there are several children, they can skip through two ropes in single file, or two can enter the rope at once, if preferred exercise. It brings almost all the muscles of the body into play, and thus promotes healthy growth. For weak ankles and flat feet it is invaluable, because it strengthens the muscles of these parts and thus provides a natural cure.
Crossing the arms while skipping backward and forward is a useful exercise to ensure co-ordination of hands and limbs
The somewhat delicate child, who shuns games and dislikes anything approaching roughness in play or sport, should be encouraged to skip. The " nervy," anaemic schoolgirl, inclined to stoop, will benefit enormously from a course of skipping exercises. The narrow-chested boy, who. is always having colds and is continually threatened with delicate lungs, would find graduated skipping exercises invaluable. The child who skips takes a certain amount of graceful exercise every day; that is, if the skipping is done properly, and not at haphazard, according to the child's own inclinations. It will not only make for health, but will improve the carriage and deportment. After a few weeks' practice, a lithe, supple movement is acquired, and a lightness of step and walk which is extremely graceful.
Young children seem to skip naturally, and, in its simplest form, skipping perhaps does not require to be taught at all. Give a girl a length of rope, and she will learn without effort how to run and skip and hop as if to the manner born. At the same time, certain steps are more advantageous than others from the physical and graceful standpoint. Backward skipping should be taught because the backward sweep of the arms brings the chest forward and develops the lungs. Skipping on alternate feet or hopping is excellent for weak ankles because the foot has to bear weight, and the muscles are strengthened with practice. Then, by teaching the children more complicated steps, the feet and leg muscles are exercised, and development is quite apparent to observation.
An excellent plan is for someone to organise a sort of skipping parade. First, let the children skip through a long rope held by two of them, one after another. If there are sufficient children, they can skip through two ropes in single file, first through one and then on to the next. This can be varied by making two of them enter the rope at once and pass on. The greatest variety can be obtained from the single skipping-rope.
Let the children stand in rows, and skip, whilst keeping time together, counting as they skip. This will make the first exercise. For a second they should have a backward skip. Then the various steps should be learnt in order.
Let them learn to hop, and to cross their arms while skipping backward and forward. A skipping-dance can be arranged after the children have had practice.
Arrange the children in a circle, and let them skip round and round. At the word of command they should change to backward skipping, hopping, and crossed arms. They can go through different figures, passing in and out grand-chain fashion, and if the skipping is done to music, and flower-trimmed or coloured ropes are used, the general effect is exceedingly. pretty.
In summer, skipping exercises should always be practised out of doors, but in wet weather it is well to let the children skip in the nursery, or in a hall or corridor where there is nothing to knock over. The exercise should not be so prolonged as to fatigue the children. At first, a few skips, perhaps five or six, will be quite sufficient. Gradually, as the little skippers become more proficient,
The children in position ready to begin a skipping dance or game. Every variety of movement should be used to promote the due exercise of every muscle and prevent tedium or fatigue and the muscles stronger, they can skip for four or five minutes, changing the exercises several times to avoid fatigue of any one set of muscles.
Whenever possible, let the children skip in stockings or with bare feet. Thus the ankles have full play, and the child learns to skip lightly and easily without any jar.
Many doctors recommend skipping for older people. Women are taking to it because of its beneficial effect upon the figure and carriage. For girls who have to lead a sedentary life the exercise is most beneficial. Ten minutes' skipping night and morning will exercise the muscles, stimulate the circulation, and give tone to organs which are apt to suffer in vitality unless regular definite exercise in some form is provided. Skipping seems to dispel "cobwebs" more successfully than almost any other form of physical culture, and for this reason alone is to be recommended.