This section of the book is from "Fasting, Hydropathy and Exercise", by Bernarr MacFadden.
The choice of any special form of movement cure should be decided by the exigencies of their purpose to compensate the deficient opportunities of daily life. Persons engaged in sedentary occupations, alternating with domestic chances for arm exercise (wood-cutting, amateur carpentering, etc.,) should devote their leisure to pedestrianism or some class of gymnastics tending to develop the muscles of the lower motive organs. The great plurality of city dwellers who find daily occasion for walking matches against time, should give their arms the benefit of daily dumb-bell exercise, and patronize the flying trapeze on every visit to a public gymnasium.
A year's practice is almost sure to develop a prediction for some form of athletic exercise but the experience of every gymnasium teacher proves that, on the other hand, there are also individuals with a practically unconquerable aversion to special branches of his curriculum. These antipathies may often be founded on anomalies of physical structure, and are thus akin to the instinctive repugnance to certain kinds of food. Dr. W. Carpenter mentions the case of a boy who had a horror naturalis of mutton, and who at every attempt to overcome that dislike was seized with violent vomiting fits. His guardian was inclined to ascribe that caprice to the effects of imagination, and, by way of experiment, treated his ward to a meat-pie containing mutton disguised by spices, but the result remained the same, and the patient, who would have made a popular neighbor of certain Australian stock-farmers, was publicly recognized as a boy with a stomach that could not digest mutton.
And practice is almost equally unavailing to overcome the disinclination of some gymnasium pupils to special kinds of exerciseheel over head evolutions on a trapeze or horizontal bar, for instance. I have known gymnasts who complained of sick headaches whenever the routine of the educational programme obliged them to conquer that aversion, and a good rule in such cases is to accept the verdict of nature as final, if the repugnance should continue to assert itself after the tyro has mastered the technical difficulties of the exercise.
But it is also certain that habit develops an association of ideas between special ailments and their appropriate gymnastic remedies. I have mentioned the expedient of sailors who "work off" qualms of seasickness by volunteer exercise in the rigging and an old teacher of my acquaintance occasionally leaves the class-room to nip an incipient attack of asthma with a pair of dumbbells.
Hay-fever, I think, could often be knocked out with Indian clubs, and more than one victim of rheumatism has learned the trick of walking away from the premonitory symptoms of his affliction. A time may come when patients of all sorts will hurry to a gymnasium as they now hasten to a drug store.
The power of established prejudices, it is true, has almost no limits, but now and then yields to the dictates of fashion, and by good luck physical exercise is a cosmetic. People who do not realize that weakness and disease are crimes, may consent to recover because it is also the surest way to get pretty. They will appreciate the logic of their looking-glass.
By their system of physical culture," says a Scotch author, "the Greeks realized that beautiful symmetry of shape which for us exists only in the ideal, or in the forms of divinity which they sculptured from figures of such perfect proportions."
Health is beauty; strength imparts ease of deportment; the paragons of fashion have constantly to recruit their ranks from the products of the forests and prairies; under the stimulus of outdoor exercise grace develops its fairest flowers
"Yet not one of all that did try
Could play like Elfy, the Gypsy-boy."
Physical exercise is destined to effect the regeneration of the Caucasian race; but we should remember that it cannot at once counteract the mischief of all our manifold sins against the health laws of nature. It may prolong the lives of grog-drinking sailors, but cannot bleach their bottle-noses. It enables the hunters of the Pampas to digest a diet of bull-beef, but cannot save them from lung diseases if they pass the nights in smoky dug-outs.
Like the three Graces, the three remedies of Nature should go hand in hand.
Under the reign of old-time medical delusions, a sick man's first impulse was to "take something," i. c. to swallow a dose of poison drugs. A sanitarian's first thought, under the same circumstances, should be to stop swallowing, i. e. to fast for a day or two. Those who insist on "taking something" should be advised to take a cold bath, or an hour's exercise in the gymnasium.
Shall we dispense with chemical medicaments altogether?
The current of sanitary reform is certainly setting strongly in that very direction. In spite of quack-revivals, the time is coming and it not far, when intelligent physicians will prescribe drugs only for external application, as in cutaneous disorders, where their effect amounts to a direct removal of the cause, and internally only in analogous cases, as for the expulsion of intestinal parasites.
With these few exceptions, the disorders of the human organism will be trusted to the self-regulating tendency of nature, aided by the influence of the three natural stimulants: Fasting, Refrigeration, and Exercise. The disciples of Natural Hygiene will try to deserve the blessings which the dupes of the drug-monger attempt to buy across the counter; instead of changing their hospital or their course of medication they will change their habits, and their loss of faith in a few popular superstitions will be compensated by an abundant gain in health.