Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/95

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
85
GYMNASTICS.

upon the druggist, for particular instructions. It is as likely that one as the other would be able to recognize, for instance, the difference between functional and organic heart-murmurs, which would call for such fundamentally different treatment. If no gymnasium is at hand, the doctor should still be as well able to advise about the use of extemporized apparatus and the various forms of exercise without appatus as about the use of other domestic remedies. His prescriptions must be both intelligent and intelligible.

The opportunities for giving this advice are far greater than for giving any drug or all drugs put together. For long before and for long after there is any drug indication, there exists the plain, imperative need of physical exercise, even for those in perfect health who desire to keep that blessing. Either physicians must recognize the growing demands for professional advice as to such means of maintaining health or a new profession will arise to keep people out of the doctors' hands. Even now doctors are called upon for this advice, and it is a great mistake to suppose that the call demands little attention.

The grandest opportunity for the introduction of this new system of gymnastics is in the schools, where succeeding generations are molded. According to statistics, in only three in a thousand of the public schools of this country is any attention paid to physical training. Even a casual inspection of these schools, where entire attention is paid to mental development, reveals sufficient reasons for the abounding deficiencies and deformities which make almost conspicuous any well-formed man or woman. To say nothing of the debilitating influence of their commonly wretched hygienic surroundings, their entire lack of physical exercise as a corrective for the unnatural sedentary life that is forced upon them is cause sufficient for their poor bodily development.

It is a popular fallacy that the short recesses and the after-school play-hours can make up for the long school-sessions, during which the children must sit still and too often in a necessarily cramped position. The school-yard is generally so small and crowded that only the bolder boys dare run in it; the timid, weakly boys and the girls dawdle away the precious minutes. And even the common sports of childhood do not furnish the right sort of exercise. Like that of tramping up the long stair-flights, and of going to and from the school, the exercise is mainly of the lower limbs, which in the unnatural conditions of civilization suffer least from disuse, and therefore stand in least need of artificial development. Invaluable as the play-hours are in relief from mental strain, the exercise thus afforded needs to be supplemented by such as will give the child the best possible body. Such exercise can easily be provided in the schools, and will be provided when parents awake to the fact that children's bodies as well as minds suffer from neglect, and become serviceable according to the care taken in their development.