This section of the book is from "Fasting, Hydropathy and Exercise", by Bernarr MacFadden.
Movement-cures, on the other hand, reveal their benefit after the end of a week or soat first by improvements in the facility of the exercise itself, but soon also by indisputable physiological changes for the better. The appetite revives, sleep becomes quieter and more protracted, till the depressing feeling of helplessness gives way to the buoyancy of self-confidence.
In that way Dr. Winship of Boston recovered his lost self-respect. The "crime of weakness" had obliged him to submit to the insults of a bully, and he resolved to become a man in the ancient heroic sense of the word or renounce an existence whose blessings had ceased to outweigh its evils. Lifting weights and swinging a pair of ring-weighted Indian clubs soon began to improve his appearance and inspire him with hopes he would not have bartered the wealth of a sick boodle magnate, but he continued his exercises, adding heavier and heavier rings, he continued to throw weights and lift weights till he became the physical superior of his insulter and at last a modern Samson, able to handle burdens in a way that transcends beliefand incidentally equally expert in the task of grappling with the burdens of existence. Bag-punching may be made a diverting intermezzo of more strenuous exercises, and it is altogether a good plan to vary the programme of gymnastic prescriptions, now and then. There, as elsewhere, a change of employment will make frequent fast days less necessary. Canadian lumbermen, in the blest absence of Blue-law spies, often devote their Sundays to hunting trips and scramble up and down deep mountain ridges, with all the energy of sportsmen who have passed the week in a city office and need their holidays for outdoor exercise. Those anti-Sabbatharian woodcutters may actually get a double dose of hard work on their leisure day, but cheerfully go to chopping again on Monday morning, while a month of uniform drudgery would probably put half of them on the sick-list. That there are true specifics on the remedy-list of the gymnasium, as well as of the drug store, is proved by the efficacy of the movement-cure for asthma. A straight stick, about five feet long, is marked from end to end with deep notchessome twenty of them altogether. A ten-pound weight with a hook complete the inexpensive apparatus. The exercise consists in grasping the stick at the thicker end, raising it to the level of the chin and thrusting it out like a fencing-foil, draw it back slowly and push it out again, keeping it as nearly as possible horizontal. Then hook the weight to one of the near-by notches and try to repeat the home-thrust manoeuvre. Every notch further out will increase the weight and the strain on the arm muscles, till at last a slip from the level indicates the limit of the experiment. With the weight on the farthest practicable notch even an athlete will notice that the exercise reacts on the mechanism of the lungs. The breath comes and goes in gasps,involving coughs, perhaps, if the bronchial tubes are clogged with phlegm, but at the same time the feeling of pulmonary impediments is gradually relieved. The experimenter finds that he can breathe freer and deeper than before. That improvement may not be a permanent one, but the beneficial after-effects of the exercise just suffice to break the spell of an asthma fit. A daily repetition of the cure at last obviates the risk of a relapse for weeks to come; the patient can relax the strictness of his dietetic precaution and venture to leave his sleeping chair for a horizontal couch without the dread of being waked by a suffocation fit.
And it is a significant fact that not every kind of arm-exercise will serve the purpose of an asthma cure. Wood-cutting, for instance, is very apt to exert an opposite effect; the shock seems to aggravate the distress of the lungs and tighten the grip of the dyspnoea or chronic disability to get a full breath of life-air. Nor is that experience limited to weaklings. I remember an interview with a broad-shouldered, but financially rather straightened, Tennessee mountain carpenter, who confessed with a sigh that he was obliged to do nearly all his axe work by proxy. "I used to try it, anyhow," said he, "but it 'cut my wind' so often that I'm not going to put my foot in that trap again. It's better to be poor than going through such misery"stating several cases to illustrate a theory to the effect that fate had reduced him to the alternative of getting short of cash or of air. Weight-carrying in warm weather, by the way, is likewise so unmistakably detrimental to the comfort of weak lungs, that asthma patients instinctively avoid farm work, though they may be fond of country life and outdoor exercise.