Exercise of all parts of the body is an absolute necessity for the maintenance of perfect health. If a steam-engine is allowed to stand idle it will soon rust and get out of order. Similarly, if the body has no work to do, it will become too fat, and the muscles will waste and get flabby, the heart will become weak, the circulation slow and feeble, the blood will not be properly aerated, poisonous products will accumulate in the body, the complexion will be pale, and the intellect dull, and if the brain is not regularly exercised the person will merely develop into a muscular animal, no better than a savage ; he will be stupid, ignorant, and uninteresting both to himself and to others.
The effect of regular muscular exercise is to expand the lungs, to increase the 568 amount of oxygen taken in and the carben dioxide breathed out; the sweat is increased, and so exercise helps to get rid of waste matters from the body. The heart is strengthened, the blood is more aerated, the muscles grow larger, harder, and more active, the appetite and digestive powers increase, the body is kept warm, and the brain is more active and bright as a result of the general health being so good. During exercise more food is required and much pure air.
The brain worker should take regular gymnastic exercise in a well-ventilated gymnasium, or, better still, regular outdoor exercise, such as walking, climbing, swimming, cricket, or lawn tennis. It is very necessary that such exercise should be regular, as if done irregularly or in "spurts" it will do more harm than good, because the muscles, not being in training, will soon get tired, and the body will suffer. The person whose occupation is an entirely muscular one, such as the common laborer or the blacksmith, should spend his spare time in reading, music, and other mental studies. In other words, every man should have a " hobby " which should exercise faculties as differeut as possible from the usual occupation. There is but little danger in hard and continuous work, provided it is varied and not monotonous; it is not work but worry which kills. The tendency to worry when there is no need, and which is such a prominent feature with some people, should be constantly kept down.
The above remarks as regards exercise apply, of course, not only to men but to women, and to them almost with greater force, as women neglect it to such an extent. There are plenty of forms of perfectly womanly exercise which may be taken, such as walking, rowing, swimming, skating, and lawn tennis, and if these were indulged in regularly we should hear less of hysteria and weak backs.
The conditions necessary for keeping the muscles in good order are those required for the healthy nutrition of every organ of the body; namely:
Good, rich blood ; distribution of blood, and of nerve-force, without obstruction, to each part; exercise of the organs, according to their ability; sufficient intervals of repose.
Everybody knows that we must have sleep for several hours in each twenty-four, or we wear out. Besides sleep, however, which affects the brain only, there must be rest from action in all the muscles.
The heart must, first of all, be protected from disturbance. It naturally beats faster when any of the large muscles are working actively, as when we run or walk fast; especially up stairs. Our breathing is then hurried also ; and thus, commonly, a check is put upon our doing too much : we "get out of breath," and have to stop or slacken our movement.
When the heart is overworked, one of two things happens. If the body is at the time well nourished, and its general vitality is good, the heart grows stronger, just as other muscles do, with exercise. In time it grows thicker also ; and this is the " hypertrophy " of medical books. But, if the overwork is incessant, the blood is thin and poor, and the sum of energy in the body is low, the heart becomes weak instead; its muscular fibres become pale and thin. In this condition they are easily stretched by the blood within the heart's cavities, and we have what doctors call " dilatation of the heart."
Tight lacing does mischief and impairs health, sometimes causing sudden death, by cramping the motion of the heart, as well as the expansion of the lungs in breathing. It is an enormous mistake; all the more intolerable because the wasp-like shape which it gives to the female figure is unlovely as well as unnatural. No sculptor of classic Greece, no painter of Italy, in the days of Raphael, Michael Angelo, and Titian, ever gave to a goddess or a Madonna such a form as modern fashion has sometimes tortured its victims to obtain. Happily, there is, of late years, some gain in fashion in regard to this matter ; the direction both of good taste and of hygiene.