This section of the book is from "Fasting, Hydropathy and Exercise", by Bernarr MacFadden.
About twenty years ago a North Yankee invented a "rowing machine," which he intended to facilitate the preparatory exercises of oarsmen,without perhaps suspecting that he had provided an almost infallible mechanical constipation cure. The apparatus can be worked indoors, and adapted to various degrees of strength, and the exercise (a close imitation of the movements incident to the task of rowing a cockle-boat against the stream) reacts on the functions of the digestive organs in a manner that must be experienced to be credited. Close tools that have resisted other sanitary prescriptions and yielded only temporarily to drastic drugs, are relieved permanently before the end of half a week. An hour of work in the morning and about half an hour in the evening (before supper) is enough to insure that result, and in combination with cold sponge-baths will make drug-medication wholly superfluous in all but the most inveterate cases of dyspepsia. Far-gone dyspeptics have to invoke the third remedy of nature: A fasting-cure. In cool weather the triple prescription will do its work in a couple of weeks and so effectively that subsequent relapses can be avoided by the most ordinary dietetic precautions.
In a former chapter I have mentioned a movement-cure specific for diarrhoea, viz., pedestrian exercise, especially in warm weather. On stormy winter days carrying weights (say, buckets full of coal) upstairs, for an hour or two, will prove a remedial equivalent. With the co-operation of a spare diet its efficacy will manifest itself before the end of the second day, unless the digestive organs should have been outrageously deranged by the abuse of virulent drugs.
Sleeplessness will eventually yield to almost any kind of physical exercise (quicker than to brain work), but among its mechanical specifics a German physician mentions mountain climbing. In explanation of his personal experience he has a theory that vertigo (dizziness) and the excitement of a perilous path at the brink of steep cliffs affect the brain in a manner that craves the relief of sleep. He also recommends several gymnastic substitutes (Ersatz Mittel), e. g., ladder climbing on the hand-over-hand plan. Place a long stout ladder against a wall at an angle of 45 degrees, and attend to the precautions against the risk of slipping. Then step underneath, grasp the highest round you can reach with outstretched arms, draw yourself up to the next higher onefeet now dangling clear off the ground; up to the next, higher again, and so on, till dizziness or exhaustion suggest the descent of man. Rest for a few minutes, or engage in lighter exercise, then at it again, and after half an hour of ups and downs conclude the soiree, and watch its effects on the chance for a good night's rest. It is a common experience of mountain tourists that, upon retiring for the night, they are for a while haunted by visions of yawning chasms, till yawns of a different sort offer a change of programme, and the Brocken-spectre ridden brain seeks refuge in slumber. The blest contrast of the horizontal couch may help to enhance the attractiveness of that change, and sleep supervenes without the aid of opiates.
The excitement of competitive gymnastics is equally effective in relieving the torpor of the reaction following the abuse of strong liquors. With all the firm resolves inspired by the appeals of a temperance orator, the new convert cannot help feeling a more and more urgent craving for a stimulant of some sort or other, and by a sort of instinct, welcomes an opportunity for soul-stirring pastimes. Miners at work in a bonanza pit would scorn the offer of a dram-bottlethey have found a more pleasant intoxicant. Gamblers, too, become abstemious under the influence of an exciting game, especially as long as the dice fall in their favor; and mountain peak climbers of the Tyndall school ask no better tonic.