Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/90

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these gymnasia was generally so disappointing that they were fast becoming unpopular, when happily the present successful system came in to supersede them. In order thoroughly to understand this new system one must experience its sure beneficent effects, which depend not upon newly-devised apparatus, although great improvements have been made in this respect, but upon the application of scientific principles in the employment of old methods, thereby combining all the possible advantages of every other system. Its main features are: First, a thorough physical examination of the person in comparison with the normal type, proper allowances being made for race, age, sex, and temperament. Second, carefully prescribed exercise to correct deformities and deficiencies, and to induce symmetrical development. Third, special directions as to proper times for exercise, and for care of the body after exercise. It will readily be understood that such a system requires professional oversight and direction. Before discussing the opportunities for profitable introduction of this system, let us consider its theoretical advantages and its practical results.

If, as may naturally be supposed, the human body is designed to meet the physical activity of life in simplest conditions, where all the muscles find necessary employment in procuring food and protection, then, in conditions of life where such necessity does not exist, it follows either that the body has unlimited power of adaptability, or that sooner or later in the deviation from primitive conditions the body will not naturally attain its maximum of possible vigor. The latter is, of course, our only conclusion; and it needs but to be pointed out that, in our present complicated civilization, where the demands upon nervous and mental force are so disproportionally great, this deviation is excessive and increasing, in order to emphasize the need of supplying artificially the lost conditions of maximum body strength. Our subject naturally divides, according to purposes, into exercise designed for the preservation, and into exercise designed for the development, of health and strength. Of the two subjects the latter is the more important. Once given a well-developed body in fine condition, and obedience to certain definite rules will keep it so; while, on the other hand, to bring about this condition is often impossible, and always demands skill and painstaking. No time may safely be wasted: the earlier the start and the more constant the care, the better are the possible results. A month's work in correcting a child's deficiencies or deformities may be worth years of such labor later on, when the skeleton is thoroughly ossified. And yet, although the plastic stage of youth is so much the more favorable time for such work, there is still such a Milling response on Nature's part, that almost at any age our efforts in this direction are liberally rewarded.

In considering the results that may be expected from exercise directed to certain ends, let us take first the body framework. The shape of the bones most concerns us. When we remember the pliant