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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/28

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ing the arms up and down like pump-handles. But the weighted stick, bearing against the sinews of the forearm, still increases this effect, and overcomes the stricture of the asthmatic spasm, as the movement of the loose arms relieves the torpor of the drowning-asphyxia. With the aid of this mechanical palliative (for death is the only radical asthma cure) the distress of the spasm can be relieved before the actual dyspnœa or breathlessness has begun, and, after ten or twelve resolute efforts, the feeling of oppression will generally subside and the lungs resume their work as if nothing had happened. Daily exercise with the balance-stick is sure to diminish the frequency of the attacks, and, if begun in time, would probably cure children from an hereditary tendency of this sort. Two years ago I sent this receipt to an asthma-martyr whom the narcotic-vapor cure did not save from a weekly repetition of all the horrors of strangulation. He has now lengthened the period of his complaint from a week to an average of forty days, and assured me that even a few minutes' exercise with a six-pound weight has saved him many a sleepless night.

Lifting and carrying weights was a favorite exercise with the ancient athletes, and our modern rustics are still very apt to estimate a man's strength by his lifting capacity. The "best man" of a Yorkshire parish is generally he who can shoulder the heaviest bag and carry it farthest and with the firmest step. Feats of this sort require certainly a sound constitution in every way; weak lungs, especially, are sure to tell, but the main strain bears upon the thighs and the small of the back: a good lifter has to be a strong-boned man, and will generally make a good wrestler and rider. Weak-backed children will, therefore, derive much benefit from the various exercises with hand weights and lifting-straps, and, indeed, from any labor involving the addition of an extra burden to the natural weight of the body. Heavy lifts require some precaution against strains—a waist-belt, and unflinching steadiness in rising from a stooping position; but it should be remembered that rupture (hernia)—generally ascribed to the effects of overlifts—results more frequently from the shock of a fall, and a predisposing defect of the abdominal teguments. The history of the lifting-cure records not a single instance of a rupture having originated from the often enormous feats of professional gymnasts, or the more dangerous efforts of enthusiastic beginners. As a general rule, it may be relied upon that a perfectly sound child can not overlift himself before his strength gives way—I mean, before the yielding of his muscles and sinews simply compels him to drop the burden. Here, too, the achievements of ancient and modern Samsons illustrate the tenacity of the human frame and its marvelous capacity for development. The credibility of the Gaza story depends somewhat upon the size of those city gates; but there is no doubt that Thomas Topham, of Surrey, once shouldered a sentry-box containing a stove, a bench, and a sleeping watchman, and carried his burden to a suburban cemetery.