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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/794

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

it once was not infrequently stimulates a man to increased exertions which may provoke structural changes in the brain, and will certainly accelerate the progress of any that may exist in that organ. When a man finds that a great effort is required to accomplish any mental task that was once easy, he should desist from the attempt, and regulate his work according to his power. With this limitation, it may be taken for granted that the mental faculties will be far better preserved by their exercise than by their disuse.

Somewhat different advice must be given with regard to bodily exercises in their reference to longevity. Exercise is essential to the preservation of health; inactivity is a potent cause of wasting and degeneration. The vigor and equality of the circulation, the functions of the skin, and the aeration of the blood, are all promoted by muscular activity, which thus keeps up a proper balance and relation between the important organs of the body. In youth, the vigor of the system is often so great that if one organ be sluggish another part will make amends for the deficiency by acting vicariously, and without any consequent damage to itself. In old age, the tasks can not be thus shifted from one organ to another; the work allotted to each sufficiently taxes its strength, and vicarious action can not be performed without mischief. Hence the importance of maintaining, as far as possible, the equable action of all the bodily organs, so that the share of the vital processes assigned to each shall be properly accomplished. For this reason exercise is an important part of the conduct of life in old age; but discretion is absolutely necessary. An old man should discover by experience how much exercise he can take without exhausting his powers, and should be careful never to exceed the limit. Old persons are apt to forget that their staying powers are much less than they once were, and that, while a walk of two or three miles may prove easy and pleasurable, the addition of a return journey of similar length will seriously overtax the strength. Above all things, sudden and rapid exertion should be scrupulously avoided by persons of advanced age. The machine which might go on working for years at a gentle pace often breaks down altogether when its movements are suddenly accelerated. These cautions may appear superfluous, but instances in which their disregard is followed by very serious consequences are by no means infrequent.

No fixed rule can be laid down as to the kind of exercise most suitable for advanced age. Much must depend upon individual circumstances and peculiarities; but walking in the open air should always be kept up and practiced daily, except in unfavorable weather. Walking is a natural form of exercise and subserves many important purposes: not a few old people owe the maintenance of their health and vigor to their daily "constitu-