The ideal way to get one’s exercise is, of course, out of doors in the sunshine and fresh air. And the ideal exercises are those which assume the form of play rather than the form of routine exercises similar to those done in the home. The games or sports have, in addition to their effect on the muscles, an important psychological value. They give us the companionship which we all crave and furnish us with an incentive to continue our exercises, either because of the companionship they offer us, or because they appeal to the sense of rivalry and honest fighting spirit which we all possess.
Unfortunately all of us are not so situated that we can indulge in sports, and moreover, many of us are not strong enough to indulge in them. It is necessary, we have repeatedly stressed, to select the type and amount of exercise which is suitable to our own particular constitution. Too much exercise or too strenuous exercise is just as harmful, and in some cases, even more harmful than no exercise at all.
1. Walking. Walking is one of the most pleasurable outdoor exercises and is within the reach of all who are physically able to endure it. Moreover, it is extremely helpful in the correction of constipation, although it cannot be said that it directly involves the abdominal organs, except to a slight degree. Its beneficial effects are obtained partly through the increased activity of the diaphragm and partly by the vibrating effect on the entire body and the stimulation of circulation and metabolism. Moreover, the rhythmical raising and lowering of the body in correct walking gently shakes up the intestines, thereby aiding gas to escape and the solid feces to move gradually downward towards the rectum. Correct walking also helps you to breathe properly.
You are probably wondering just what correct walking is. First of all, in order to walk properly, you must maintain the erect standing posture we have already described. And remember this just as a correct posture cannot be achieved unless you are wearing sensible shoes, so you cannot walk properly if your shoes don’t fit or if they have those ridiculously high heels that so many women think beautiful. Such an idea may be attributed to ignorance. If women would only realize that skinny, shapeless legs, calveless and ankleless, with shortened tendons in the back, are caused principally by high heeled shoes, they would soon discard such shoes. And if they only knew how men snickered at their ungainly wobbly walks and their hips swaying like elephants’ also due to high heels they would bury their heads in shame. And if they realized what those heels are doing to their abdominal organs, they would run straight to their doctor. Fortunately, however, these remarks pertain only to dwellers in large cities where little walking is done. a. And now for the walking itself. The legs should be swung forward from the hip and not from the knee. If you have been walking with a knee movement, perhaps a few preliminary exercises will help you. Here’s a simple one that is usually taught to persons preparing for a stage career. Stand erect with your arms extended shoulder lever at your sides. Now swing your right leg, from the hip, back and forth a few times, then step forward on it, making sure to step on the ball of your foot. Do the same with your left leg.
b. When you have mastered this exercise, instead of swinging your feet back and forth several times, swing each foot once before stepping, and then modify this movement into a swinging, walking step. You will find that you are walking by swinging your leg from the hip and not from the knee. You will be able to walk a greater distance without tiring, and you will find that you have acquired a most graceful, youthful carriage.
Not only should your legs and general posture be taken into consideration when you are walking, but you should also remember your arms. They should swing loosely at your sides and not be held stiffly before you or behind your back. In this position they help rather than hinder correct breathing and posture.
2. Running. Running has the same effect as walking, only more quickly and to a more marked degree. Alternate walking and running is a good exercise and is frequently employed by Boy Scouts on their hikes. The running step may also be practiced either indoors or outside by standing in the same position.
This is sometimes more effective than running forward because it gives one the opportunity to raise the knees up to the chest, thereby exercising the abdominal muscles to a greater extent. Running, however, cannot be indulged in by all per-sons as it is strenuous exercise. If after practicing a short time you find that you are still easily winded or your heart keeps pounding, you had better keep to walking.
3. Sports. Sports and games are no doubt the best form of exercise there is. We have already told you why so we have no need to discuss the question here. And, as we have also said, it is unfortunate that all cannot indulge in them. But some of us lack the time,others the facilities and still more are not strong enough.
For those who can indulge in them, horseback riding, golf, tennis, rowing, swimming, squash, hand ball and baseball are all of high value in any system of exercise. Riding and rowing are particularly good for strengthening the abdomen and the back and are helpful in constipation.