As a preventive of disease, there can be no question of the advantageous results of exercise, and in this connection may be quoted the reports from Amherst College, which show a remarkable decrease in sickness since the introduction of compulsory gymnastics, and a decrease in the proportion of three sick in the freshman year to one sick in the senior year, as a result of four years' training. Another most excellent result mentioned in the same reports, which can not be too greatly emphasized, is the increase of the person's own regard for his body. After realizing the cost of physical strength, one is far less likely to waste it wantonly.
What has been said of the advantages of physical exercise in developing the body applies even more forcibly in regaining a vigorous condition after debilitating disease. For, while in growth we have natural tendencies toward excellent development, on the other hand in the convalescence of adults the only stimulus is that of needed strength; only by exertion can this stimulus be gained. To bring a convalescent fully up to par, more is needed than tonics and a nutritious diet. And if doctors oftener prescribed and required definite daily amounts of exercise, their patients' recoveries would be hastened, and the striking change for the better, now so often immediately following the doctors' dismissal, would then be less noticeable.
Especially applicable would such practice be in hospitals where patients are under stricter surveillance, but surrounded with less inducements to exercise themselves; comfortably cared for, with no necessity for exertion, it is often no easy job to rouse them to active recovery of strength. The added expense of a suitable gymnasium under competent supervision would, doubtless, be saved by the patient's shorter stay in the convalescent condition.
In the case of physical exercise, no exception will be found to the general rule that the efficacy depends upon the accuracy of the prescription.
Good results are not to be expected from careless following of careless advice. Those whose need is greatest are often the most loath to undertake any exercise, and hence such will be sure not to avail themselves of any indefinite instructions in this respect; while, on the other hand, some, out of over-conscientiousness or enthusiasm and in lack of explicit directions, are liable by overdoing to receive injury instead of benefit. It should be borne in mind that it is the physician's duty to teach his patients that they may so far as possible live intelligently as regards their own peculiar conditions. If in his trained observation there is on his patient's part a need for greater lung development, then every means should be taken to gain the patient's intelligent co-operation in securing this result.
If a well-appointed gymnasium is at hand, the physician should be as well able to prescribe the exact use of its different apparatus as he is to write for doses from the adjoining drug-store. Nor is it safer to depend upon the skill of the average gymnasium director, than it is