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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/410

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

If medical men knew more of the subject of the physiology of bodily esthetics, they would be preeminently the ones to give counsel. Physicians know, however, almost nothing of the science of physical economics and leave this whole most important department of improving physical efficiency to those who teach for hire. They occasionally recommend loosely that those under their care shall take physical culture, but they would be sorely puzzled to differentiate between good and bad instruction. This is almost as true for those who have been, in their day, more or less athletic themselves as for the contentedly sedentary. Hence when the assertion is made that it is among the most exalted duties of the physician to give specific advice in this line, many will brand the statement as absurd. Nevertheless, the physician is the one who by his scientific training should be best able to point out the faults of posture, the defective quality of tissues, why they are not fulfilling their functions properly, and precisely how they can be made to do so. The consequence is, now that physical culture is so popular, all manner of blatant ignorant folk are posing as instructors and specialists in improving the body, and much harm is often thus caused, sometimes unrecognized till long after. Yet so much good is often thus effected that people are disposed to welcome these ignoramuses as prophets of wisdom and abide by their advice rather than seek counsel of legitimate educated conservators of health. Nevertheless, the fad of physical culture is distinctly to be welcomed with all its present limitations and even its perils. It will leave a valuable impress on the period. In due time the medical profession will give it their attention, and competent expert advice can be expected from them.

Let me make a few suggestions, from the standpoint of a medical man long and practically interested in this subject, to those who desire to preserve their looks and by so doing their health; for the terms are in effect interchangeable. As has been said, this essay is directed chiefly to the conservation of elasticity, poise, movements and graceful contours. Much can be accomplished by free movements, plays, games, both indoor and outdoor, but among those who are brilliant exponents of all these pastimes will be found many very awkward in action and faulty in poise, who are sufficiently well formed and of skilful and accurate coordination. Some such persons, even of advanced years, have been trained by the writer to move and appear to vastly greater advantage by pointing out the key-note defect and showing just how this may be overcome. For illustration, take the position of the torso in one who stoops or droops. This may be only a bad habit of holding the head, yet if this alone is corrected without having the attention called to the correct position of the neck on the chest, or the balance of the shoulder blades and the tonicity of the erector spinæ muscles, etc.,