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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/22

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

lation dress of the Swedish turners is, in this respect, also the best dress for children—a light jacket, wide trousers and shirts, and broad, low-heeled shoes; in-doors, and in summer-time, shoes and stockings should often be altogether dispensed with. Stephens, the celebrated English trainer, remarked that only men who have their toes perfectly straight will make first-rate runners and wrestlers, and this qualification is nowadays a privilege of country lads who are permitted (or obliged) to run around barefoot all summer. Considering the way we treat our feet, it must often puzzle us what our toes were made for, anyhow; but the antics of a baby in the cradle prove that the human foot is by nature semi-prehensile, and might be developed into a sort of under-hand. Hindoo pickpockets "crib" with their toes, while they stand with folded arms in a crowd, and the Languedoc cork-gatherers ply their trade without a ladder, trusting their lives to the grasping power of their feet. The structural proportions of a newborn child also show a comparatively unimportant difference in the size of the lower and upper extremities; but, in the course of the first twelve years, this difference increases from 2:5 to 1:3, and often as much as 1:4; in other words, while an infant's two arms weigh nearly as much as one of its legs, the arm-weight of a schoolboy is often only one fourth of his leg-weight. The reason is that, of all the active exercise a child gets, nine tenths fall generally to the share of its lower extremities. A little child can not stand erect; the task of supporting the weight of the whole body on two feet exceeds its untried strength. But in local progression we do more: taking a step means to support and propel, or even lift, the whole body by means of the foot remaining on the ground. In running up and down stairs, to school and back, and here and there about the house, the legs of the laziest schoolboy perform that feat about eight thousand times a day. What have his arms done in the mean while? Carried a chair across the room, perhaps, or elevated so and so many spoonfuls of hash from the plate to a place six inches farther up, besides supporting the weight of three or four ounces of clothing. To equalize this difference should therefore be the primary object of physical culture, for the harmonious structure of all its parts is an essential condition of a perfectly developed body. No malformation is more common in city recruits than a narrow chest. Besides spear-throwing, of which I shall speak further on, any exercise promoting the development of the shoulder muscles will tend to expand the chest, and thus remove the chief predisposing cause of consumption. In a climate where the first four years of a child's life have to be passed mostly in-doors, a special room of a spacious house or a corner reservation of a small nursery should be set apart for arm-exercises—hurling, swinging, and lifting. The arrangements for the propulsive part of the good work need not go beyond an old bolster and a cushion-target, but the grapple-swing should be both safe and handy—a pair of swinging-rings suspended