Macfadden's Fasting, Hydropathy and Exercise/CHAPTER XI




The sanitary influence of active exercise is so unmistakable that it has never been altogether disputed, though its importance is still strangely underrated.

Nearly two thousand years ago the medical philosopher Asclepiades substituted gymnastics for drugs, and Dr. Boerhave repeatedly called attention to the remedial effect of outdoor labor in cases where medicine had failed to bring relief. "When I reflect on the pathological immunities of hard-working people," he says, "I cannot help thinking that most of our fashionable diseases might be cured mechanically, instead of chemically, by climbing a bitterwood tree, or chopping it down, if you like, rather than swallowing a decoction of its disgusting leaves."

The organism of the human body has, indeed, been aptly compared to a vessel moved both by steam and sails, but still more closely resembles the ingenious motor-boat of a Belgian engineer who utilized air-currents to recharge the batteries of an electric propeller. In a calm the ship could for a while continue its course with the assistance of the stored-up power, but under the impulse of a good breeze the engines worked under high pressure, besides being aided by a number of sails. Even thus the activity of the internal organism can for a time dispense with the stimulus of well-directed exercise, but manifests the potency of its assistance with a promptness that precludes all reasonable doubt about the connection of cause and effect. Exposure to a blood-chilling atmosphere makes the generation of animal warmth a question of vital importance, and ten minutes of vigorous exercise will raise that warmth from twenty to thirty degrees. Picket-posts on the Manitoba frontier often keep themselves alive by running, instead of walking, up and down, for half-hours or longer. Premier Gladstone's prescription of "a cord of beechwood a week, axe and wedges, in six instalments, before breakfast," will stimulate the appetite in a manner which no drugs can begin to approach.

Walking up a hill of two hundred feet suffices to increase the pulse and relieve oppression of the chest and other premonitory symptoms of heart-disease. Sleeplessness can be cured, or rather palliated, by narcotics—for a while. The eventual effect of the drug is to aggravate the evil and induce those fifty-hour vigils that drove De Quincey to the verge of insanity. Outdoor exercise will remedy the trouble, not only more cheaply and reliably, but also without the risk of distressing after-effects.

Skilful sailors can utilize any—not too violent—breeze, to keep their course in the desired direction, and there is hardly a form of active exercise that cannot be modified in a manner to obviate the necessity of the drug-monger's assistance, but, besides, there are movement-cure prescriptions of a more limited, but also more infallible efficacy, that may ultimately supersede the use of medicinal specifics.