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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/466

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

velopment of the growing infant in height is perhaps less well known to hygienists and physicians than to veterinary surgeons and trainers. It has long been observed that young horses which are put to work too early never become as large as their fellow-colts which are allowed to reach their full growth in the pasture. Gymnastic apparatus, with the efforts which they necessitate, would have on the child the same dwarfing influence as harnessing to the wagon or the plow upon the colt. The infant prodigies of the circus sufficiently exemplify this fact. With all the skill they display, they seldom exhibit well-grown, evenly developed forms, but are usually in some way distorted; and persons who have begun hard work on farms or as laborers too early in life are generally stunted. Besides being unevenly distributed in time, these exercises are badly localized as to the different parts of the body. All exercises with fixed apparatus—the trapeze, the stationary bar, rings, parallel bars, slack rope, etc.—throw the work wholly upon the upper part of the body, leaving the muscles of the pelvis and lower limbs comparatively inactive. This is not so much matter with city men, who have to walk a great deal; but is a very important consideration with children at school, who spend most of their time sitting on benches.

In children muscular effort should be generalized, so as to make as great a number of muscles as possible participate in it, or at least to distribute it judiciously among the stronger muscles. When each group of muscles shares in the exercise according to its strength, the labor is less fatiguing, and we are able to obtain the general benefit of exercise—which is the communication of the highest activity of the circulation and respiration, without incurring the harmful results which are forms of fatigue. This benefit is more conveniently obtained through exercise of the legs than of the arms, because they are stronger and can bear more work without fatigue. In such exercises, of which running is the type, not only the legs but the pelvis, the vertebral column, the shoulders, and the arms, all participate. Exercises in which the work is localized, however much they may contribute to the development of the active part in the adult, do not have that effect in children, the volume of whose muscles is never increased by them. They are consequently useless, while they promote fatigue. They are liable to the further objection that they tend to produce deformities in young children subjected to them, whose plastic frames at their tender age yield very readily to any stress which is put upon them, and acquire a permanent set if it is repeated too often. Partisans of gymnastics plead, in answer to this objection, that their system may be and is used to correct bodily deformities; but the plea really strengthens the argument against the system, for the same structure that yields to a correct-