As we have said, correct breathing is at the basis of every exercise. It is through the lungs that our bodies receive their supply of oxygen and it is through the lungs that a large portion of the body’s waste, in the form of carbon dioxide, is eliminated. This exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, you will recall, takes place through the blood vessels. Hence the exercising of the lungs becomes one of the most important factors in quickening and stimulating the movement of the fluids, and can be accomplished with a fair measure of success even by the bed-ridden. Every time the chest cavity is emptied by the expiration of the breath, a partial vacuum is created which exerts a tremendous suction power. It is one of the principal forces concerned in the return of the venous blood to the heart, but it also exerts a like effect on lymphatic vessels. Therefore deep breathing is a valuable exercise for those unable to take any other.
It is easy to understand, then, that in commencing the development of the body by any system of physical culture, the first and most important thing to do, together with correct posture, is to develop the lungs. Good Iungs and good digestion go together. Before food can be assimilated it must undergo oxygenation,which is neither more nor less than chemical combustion. Oxygen is necessary for this process. It unites with the carbon of the food which results in oxidation. As the amount of oxygen depends upon the capacity of the lungs and one’s ability and effort to fill this capacity, it will readily be seen how much depends upon those organs. We cannot inhale too much oxygen (when it is taken in a part of ordinary air), while we can take too much food; therefore, the greater the lung capacity, the better the digestion.
Here are some exercises for developing the lungs and correct breathing:
1. When in the open air, walk erect, head up, chin and shoulders drawn back, just as we have described to you, and thoroughly inflate the lungs.
Retain the air for a second or two, then expel it slowly. Practice this several times a day, and even if employment keeps you indoors, take time and go out. It sounds very simple, doesn’t it? And it is simple, but like simple things, there is a catch in it at least for many persons. The correct way to breathe is to fill every part of the lungs, expanding the diaphragm and filling the lower part of the lungs first. Many people have the mistaken idea that correct, deep breathing means sudden heaving of the upper part of the chest upward and outward. We hope you are not one of these chest heavers, for it means that only the upper part of your lungs are being filled with oxygen.
2. The first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, when you have nothing on but unrestricting underclothing, stand with your back against the wall and fill your lungs to their utmost capacity. Then retaining the breath tap your chest all over with the open hand. 3.) Do this regularly every morning and night, gently at first, but gradually increasing the length of time you hold your breath and force of the blows. You will be amazed and delighted to see with what strong blows you can whack yourself as your lungs grow stronger and stronger.
3. Stand upright, heels touching, toes pointing forward. Place your hands on your hips, as in , the fingers resting on the diaphragm, forcing out the thumbs. Do this a half dozen times at first, gradually increasing the number.
Women in particular should find this exercise beneficial, for they seldom use this part of their lungs tight clothing and ridiculous, so called modish postures such as the anaemic ugly looking “debutante slouch” of a few years ago, prevent them.
4. While in this same position, fill the upper part of the lungs full, then force the air down into the lower part of the lungs and back again by alternately contracting the upper and lower muscles of the chest. Do this repeatedly, for, besides being a good lung developer it is an excellent exercise for the liver.
5. Stand erect, as in, the arms hanging close to the sides. Then slowly raise the arms until they are in the same position, at the same time gradually taking in a full breath of air until the lungs are completely filled. Then, after holding the breath for a few seconds, gradually lower the arms, at the same time slowly expelling the breath. After doing this a few times while the lungs are full raise and lower the arms several times quickly.
6. Hold the arms straight, then slowly throw them back behind you as far as possible, at the same time taking a full breath. Then bring them slowly back to the front, as in the first position, expelling the breath while doing so. Do this several times, then fully inflate the lungs, and while holding the breath move the arms backward and forward, in the same way, but quickly. It is important to inflate and empty the lungs fully and completely during this exercise.