The Wonders of Exercise

One of the truly great hazards of the push-button age is the lack of opportunity for exercise.

Exercise is absolutely vital to a program for maintaining your very best possible health.

You should find a routine of exercise that is suitable to your individual needs.

It is not wise to be a week-end athlete if, during the rest of the week, your activities are mostly sedentary.

The most important element in a routine of exercise is to do what you do regularly.

The best and most readily available form of exercise is walking, and you should try to work out some program of walking as a routine in your daily life.

Certainly it’s essential.

Shortly after President Eisenhower’s much-publicized heart attack, the fame of Dr. Paul Dudley White, already famous in the medical world as a leading heart consultant, was spread around the world in news stories, newsreels, photos, and television. I am particularly pleased that the visual part of the attention he received was so great, for often he was shown pedaling a bicycle down the streets of his hometown of Belmont, Mass., not out of a love for old-fashioned modes of travel, but as a means of getting his exercise. Yet it is no secret that Dr. White was born more than seventy years ago. Seeing a vigorous, youthful looking man like Dr. White on a bicycle must have impressed millions.

Dr. White, one of the pioneers in electrocardiography and a noted teacher of doctors at the Harvard Medical School, is a great and ardent believer in physical exercise. His father, also a physician, was known to have cycled as much as 100 miles a day. Dr. White himself will roll up a brisk 10 miles of cycling whenever he can.
He also likes to mow his own lawn and put up storm windows at his home. He could undoubtedly well afford to have others do the work for him. But if there is anything Dr. White dislikes, it is an indolent, inactive way of life. When he accepted the highly regarded Albert Lasker award in 1953, the first heart specialist to have been so honored, he said, “In this push-button age man is overeating and pampering himself” and “the life of Riley” often leads us into at “lot of early coronary disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.”

Dr. White is no gloom monger. He is noted for the cheery, unpretentious, and candid manner which won him considerable praise from members of the nation’s press when he met almost daily with them to give progress reports on Pres. Eisenhower’s condition. In the process of doing so, he brilliantly exposed millions to an understanding of heart disease and the importance of continued research into the number-one killer of all Americans. He made it unmistakably clear (1) that the President’s addiction to golf and exercise was no cause of the famous heart attack, (2) that he would even urge the President to continue playing golf, and (3) that exercise was vital to a healthy way of life. As a physician and practitioner of preventive medicine, I could not have been more pleased by all this.

Why exercise?

Physical activity is just as necessary to life as food, air, and water. People live by activity. The only time they do not need exercise is when they are dead.

Physical activity helps keep your muscles in tone, as nature intended them to be. It aids respiration, digestion, blood circulation, and the elimination of body wastes. It is a law of Nature that your organs as well as muscles grow stronger with use, weaker with disuse.

In April, 1959, a meeting of the American College of Physicians heard an international medical team of five experts from four different countries report that all nations should be made aware of “the detrimental effects of inadequate exercise.”

The team had tested the heart conditions of a number of extremely fit athletes at the University of Vermont and in Austria. They also made comparisons with the heart conditions of mountaineers, Alpine troops, and people who led inactive lives. The team found that those who were inactive physically were also less fit physically and more prone to degenerative effects in the muscle and chambers of the heart.

In effect, the team concluded that the danger to many people is not the old canard about “athlete’s heart,” but “loafer’s heart.” Physiologically, they found that people who were physically lazy and idle were affected by a consistent “outpouring of adrenalin-like hormones” which may have been causing the degenerative changes. The team expressed the hope that nations might someday launch widespread physical reconditioning programs “to protect western populations from the steadily progressing degenerative changes, in growing contrast to the effectively cultivated vigor of eastern nations.”

Dr. Kurt Schutz, who has devoted a lifetime to the study of physical activity and the adrenal glands, says, “The human organism is geared to activity.”

Dr. Schutz likes to remind medical men that the ancient Greeks, without knowing anything about the relationship between physical activity and the adrenal glands, were able to convert sick and frail men into athletes of championship caliber by means of proper physical conditioning.

It is Dr. Schutz’ theory that secretions of the adrenal glands (tiny mushroom-like buttons lodged just above the kidneys) are constantly in need of physical activity to enable the body’s complex mechanism to better withstand the physical and emotional “shocks” of everyday life.

How much exercise?

There is no practical way to determine the amount of exercise you should get as a minimum or maximum. Everyone has different needs. But you can find a program of exercise that is ideally suited to your needs.

To improve yourself physically does not mean that you have to improve on nature. You don’t need a V-tapered silhouette or massive biceps. You need only to cooperate with nature by making your body capable of doing the things for which it was intended at each stage of life.

Because this is an age of gadgets and labor-saving devices, many of us tend to follow the path of least resistance. That is why it pleases me so much to find that men like Dr. White are critical of our unconditional surrender to “push-button” living. A man like Dr. White will mow his lawn, but how about the man who will put off buying next year’s car so that he can purchase a sit-down-and-drive-it-yourself power mower to cut a plot of grass about the size of a boxing ring?

Included in this article is an outline for a routine of exercise that is generally deemed suitable for almost anyone. However, you should find your own way of keeping fit, even if it is only by doing more of those chores around the house yourself. So what if you happen to live in one of those high-bracket communities where do-it-yourselfism is embarrassing! What’s more important, your health or your vanity?

Don’t be a weekend athlete.

Perhaps the one drawback to the publicity given to exercise by Dr. White is that many people who were impressed, suddenly became weekend athletes, and went all-out for a game of tennis or handball or grunt-and-groan pushups.

What most of us need is a steady diet of exercise, not a sporadic spurt or hectic weekend of tennis. As Dr. White has said, “It is well to establish a regular habit and to maintain it through thick and thin. One should regard it (exercise) as just as essential to good health as eating, sleeping and working. Certainly, it is true that in my own case, nervous stress and strain can be counteracted and even prevented by regular vigorous exercise. It is the best antidote that I know.”

My own rule is to advise against sports or physical activity which place too heavy a demand on your body. For instance, a person past the age of forty would be wise to omit such strenuous sports as tennis and handball, especially if it is something he cannot and does not do regularly and which exhausts him so that he feels as if he needs a long rest to recuperate.

So many middle-aged men I know will take icy dips at dawn, play handball all day Sunday, or box and wrestle in a private gym once a month merely because it seems to flatter their ego. These sometime athletes apparently won’t recognize or accept the passage of time. They think they’ll always be young in body.

The most important thing is to do whatever you do regularly and routinely. But you should do it moderately and not invite trouble by engaging in sports you should have put aside the day you turned forty.

I, for example, make it a habit to walk a considerable distance to and from my office every day in weather fair and foul. Walking is perhaps the one physical activity that is readily open to all of us. Those of you who are too busy earning a living at the more sedentary occupations and who prefer to preserve your weekends for calmer, quieter avocations, will find that nothing is better than walking. You cannot overdo walking as an exercise.

Consider your own routine. If you are a commuter, can you find the time to walk to the station in the morning and home again in the evening? Can you find the time to make a walking round trip between your office and the train home? Can you find the time to take a walk during lunch hour? Before retiring?

Tips on walking.

1. Try to walk at least fifteen minutes, three times a day.

2, As you walk make every step count. Don’t walk so fast that you become short of breath; go just briskly enough so that after you’re finished you feel as if you have accomplished something.

3. Breathe deeply as you walk.

One thing I do know rather well from considerable personal experience is that walking is also an exercise in intellectual development. You’d be surprised how you are forced to think when you walk alone and how you tend to think in a rational and logical way. Such thinking will often help you solve many a personal or business problem because it is well thought out. When you are out walking, you have no choice but to think. I can’t guarantee that you will think your way into a fortune, but can you put your hands on a better way to pile up the most priceless treasure in the world-good health?

The lazy man’s way.

I have often been asked whether there is any value in going to a gymnasium for a workout and massage. I always recommend it for the lazy man, the man who feels he simply cannot do it any other way. A properly run gymnasium serves a useful purpose be cause its staff plans an exercise program to suit your needs. The discipline of it helps you carry out the program. Otherwise, there is no need for a gymnasium if you can be sufficiently regular about your own program of exercise.

A proper body massage by an experienced masseuse is also useful for a lazy man. It can’t take the place of regular exercise, but it is better than nothing in the sense that it does stimulate the muscles and tends to keep your general body tone up to par. For an invalid, or for one whose blood pressure or heart condition will not permit much physical activity, a good masseuse can do wonders.

Life Extension Examiners Recommended Home or Office Program of Exercise

A five-minute program of setting-up exercises at home or office can be of great benefit. It is of particular value in the morning to help “tone up” your body for the day’s work ahead.

The program below has been recommended to many thousands by the Life Extension Examiners. I merely want to add this word of caution. Too often we rush through a routine of setting-up exercises because we look upon it as a duty and a chore. To be of value the exercise program should not be rushed. Do it slowly, deliberately, and in a relaxed frame of mind. If you stretch the recommended program below into five minutes, and if you do it daily or as regularly as you possibly can, you will soon find yourself getting around with more vigor and bounce.

1. Stretch and Breathe
Extend your arms over your head; stand on your toes, stretch, and inhale. Then exhale and relax to normal standing position.
Repeat 12 times.

2. Trunk Bending (forward) 
Stand with your feet together, knees straight, hands on hips.
Bend forward from the waist at right angles to the legs; keep the back flat and the chin extended. Repeat 12 times.

3. Trunk Bending (sideways) 
Stand with your feet apart, hands over head. Bend slowly to the left as far as possible. Return to upright position. Repeat 6 times to the left, 6 times to the right.

4. Knee Bending 
Stand with your feet slightly apart, hands on hips. Bend knees slowly; go down as far as possible without lifting heels from ground. Rise slowly to upright position. Repeat 12 times.

5. Bicycle
Lie on your back. Support back at waist with hands and bent elbows, carrying your weight between head and elbows as if you were trying to push your hips up to the ceiling. Now bend and extend your legs alternately, just as if you were riding a bicycle. Repeat 20 times, or until you feel slightly tired.

What to Remember about Exercise

1. Physical exercise is essential to your well-being.

2. Try to find a program of exercise that is suitable to your needs and follow it in a routine fashion.

3. Do not do anything that causes you to feel excessively fatigued.

4. After age forty, it is best to avoid vigorous and competitive sports.

5. Don’t be a weekend athlete unless you are able to follow a fairly regular program of physical activity during the rest of the week.

6. The best and most readily available form of exercise is walking.

7. Try to do at least fifteen minutes of walking, three times a day.

8. Getting a workout in a properly managed gymnasium is the lazy man’s way of exercising, but it can be of value to you.

9. If you are physically unable to exercise, a good massage will be beneficial.

10. Try about five minutes of setting-up exercises each day at home or in the office to help “tone up” your body.

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