Keeping Fit All the Way
How to Obtain and Maintain Health, Strength and Efficiency
By Walter Camp
The number of men who “keep fit” in this country has been surprisingly few, while the number of those who have made good resolutions about keeping fit is astonishingly large.
Reflection upon this fact has convinced the writer that the reason for this state of affairs lies partly in our inability to visualize the conditions and our failure to impress upon all men the necessity of physical exercise.
Still more, however, does it rest upon our failure to make a scientific study of reducing all the variety of proposals to some standard of exceeding simplicity.
Present systems have not produced results, no matter what the reason. Hence this book with its review of the situation and its final practical conclusions.
AN AMERICAN CITIZEN’S CREED
I believe that a nation should be made up of people who individually possess clean, strong bodies and pure minds; who have respect for their own rights and the rights of others and possess the courage and strength to redress wrongs; and, finally, in whom self-consciousness is sufficiently powerful to preserve these qualities.
I believe in education, patriotism, justice, and loyalty. I believe in civil and religious liberty and in freedom of thought and speech. I believe in chivalry that protects the weak and preserves veneration and love for parents, and in the physical strength that makes that chivalry effective.
I believe in that clear thinking and straight speaking which conquers envy, slander, and fear. I believe in the trilogy of faith, hope, and charity, and in the dignity of labor; finally, I believe that through these and education true democracy may come to the world.
KEEPING FIT ALL THE WAY
It has long been a startling fact regarding Americans that so soon as their school-days were over they largely abandoned athletics; until, in middle life, finding that they had been controverting the laws of nature, they took up golf or some other form of physical exercise.
The result of such a custom has been to lower the physical tone of the race. Golf is a fine form of exercise, but in an exceedingly mild way.
No one claims that it will build up atrophied muscles nor, played in the ordinary way, that it will induce deep breathing; nor, except in warm weather, that it will produce any large amount of skin action.
Hence it is easy to imagine the condition of the man who at the end of his ‘teens gave up athletics, and then did nothing of a physically exacting nature until he took up golf.
Now if in addition to his pastime and relaxation he will do something in the way of setting-up exercises to open up his chest and make his carriage erect, thus enabling his heart and lungs to have a better chance, he will more than double the advantages coming from his golf. He will then walk more briskly and will gain very much in physical condition.
NATURE A HARD MISTRESS
One thing that our middle-aged men, and in fact many of us who have not yet reached that way mark, have entirely forgotten is that Nature is very chary of her favors.
Our primal mother is just and kind, but she has little use for the man who neglects her laws. When a man earns his bread by the sweat of his brow, she maintains him in good physical condition.
When he rides in a motorcar instead of walking she atrophies the muscles of his legs, hangs a weight of fat around his middle, and labels him “out of the running.”
If he persists in eating and not physically exerting himself, she finally concludes that he is cumbering the earth, and she takes him off with Bright’s or diabetes.
It does not do him any good to tell her that he was too busy to walk and so had to ride, or that he had no time for exercising; she simply pushes him off to make way for a better man.
THE VICIOUS CIRCLE
Nature has given man two ways (outside of the action of the bowels) of getting rid of impurities, one by means of the skin and the other by means of the kidneys.
It is like a motor-car with two cylinders. If one stops the other will run on for a time, but its wear is increased. When a man stops exercising and ceases to carry off by means of his skin some of these impurities, he throws an additional load on his kidneys.
When a man goes without exercise and begins to accumulate fat, that fat gradually deposits itself and not alone about the waist; it invades the muscular tissue all over his body even to his heart.
As this accumulation grows there come with it a muscular slackness and a disinclination to exercise. The man is carrying greater weight and with less muscular strength to do it. No wonder that when he tries to exercise, he gets tired. He is out of condition.
Hence, he begins to revolve in a vicious circle. He knows that he needs exercise to help take off the fat, but exercise tires him so much, on account of the fat, that he becomes exhausted; usually he gives it up and lets himself drift again.
As his abdomen becomes more pendulous his legs grow less active. As his energy wanes his carriage becomes more slack. He shambles along as best he can, if he is positively obliged to walk. His feet trouble him. Altogether he is only comfortable when riding.
When he has reached this state the insurance companies regard him as a poor risk, and instead of enjoying the allotted threescore and ten years of real life he falls short by a decade; and even then, the last ten years are but “labor and sorrow.”
AS THE YEARS GO ON
The first thing that a man begins to lose through the inroads of age is his resistive power. He may seem in perfect health so long as there is no special change of conditions, but when he is placed in a position where he needs his resistive forces to throw off disease, he finds that he cannot command them.
Still another change is continually taking place; as the man goes on in life, little by little the control of his muscles leaves him.
Instead of running about as does the youth, recklessly and with never a thought of being tired, he begins to favor himself by walking in the easiest possible way, until soon he is balancing on one foot and then tilting forward on the other, making no muscular effort and preferring the motorcar or the trolley whenever it is at hand.
As an inevitable result, some of the muscles atrophy, and even those that do not deteriorate speedily discover that they have no master, and they act when and how they please.
The man who is continually giving orders to subordinates and having other men do things for him, soon finds that he is unable to accomplish things for himself; then, if he is thrown on his own resources, he is helpless.
Take a group of men, executives, who for a dozen years have been ordering other men about instead of obeying orders, and you will find that for the most part these captains of industry have lost 50 per cent. of their muscular control.
On the other hand, the man who is taking orders retains command over all his muscles, for he is daily and hourly training them to instant obedience. A group of privates will snap into “attention” at the word of command with splendid muscular control; the same number of officers would find great difficulty in doing this.
Now as the man loses muscular control, he loses poise and carriage. His head rolls about in a slack way on his neck and has a tendency to drop forward; the muscles of the neck and the upper part of the back grow soft from lack of use and control and he begins to become round-shouldered; his chest falls in as the shoulders come forward and the chest cavity is reduced. This means a gradual cramping of lungs, heart, and stomach.
By way of compensation, he lets out a hole or two in his belt and starts in to carry more weight there. In other words, he exchanges muscle for fat, and as the fat increases, he has less and less muscular strength to carry it. It is as though in a motorcar one added hundreds of pounds of weight to the body and reduced the horsepower of the engine.
Pretty soon the man becomes so heavy around the waist that he notices his discomfort, and it produces exhaustion; now he becomes more and more averse to exercise, and the facia, or fat, having the better of the battle, begins to penetrate even the fiber of the muscles.
The heart is a muscle, like all the others in the body, and fat may accumulate there. When this condition comes about the man is perforce obliged to be careful, for the heart muscle has lost its strength.
As stated, the situation becomes a vicious circle: as the man adds fat, he becomes more and more averse to exercise, and the less he exercises the fatter he gets.
And yet all this can be prevented; nor is it necessary to take up any violent system of training, or to engage in tremendous gymnastic exercise.
If the patient is willing to take reasonable physical training along scientific lines, a few hours a week will keep him in respectable shape, so that he may preserve not only his figure, but also his activity.
It should be remembered that all the members of the body partake of the slackness that is apparent externally. Thus, organs that should be active in changing fat into energy lose their tone, and with that goes their ability to carry on their proper functions.
The best work of the man himself is coordinated with the proper performance of the bodily activities. Growth and strength depend upon and react upon the tissues, and while this process is less active as age comes on, it can be stimulated to the great advantage of both mind and body.
WHAT WORRY DOES
Every man who has reached a high place in his community or who has become a leader of note knows that executive work has a tremendous effect upon the nerves and body. If the man becomes run-down the smallest decision gives him difficulty; it seems weighted with enormous possibilities of disaster.
A problem, which under normal conditions he would turn over with equanimity to his assistant, takes on, in his nervous state, a seriousness that leads to hours of worry. And yet if he goes away on a vacation, he returns to find that nine-tenths of these troublesome things have been well taken care of during his absence.
Moreover, now that he has come back in a state of physical health and with nerves that are normal, he sees that these awful problems were simply exaggerated in his own mind by his overwrought physical condition.
Few people realize the effect of worry upon the digestion.
An experiment was once tried upon a cat, which was fed a dish of milk, stroked until it purred, and played with for half an hour. The animal was then killed, and the stomach examined; the milk was perfectly digested.
Another cat was taken and given a similar saucer of milk; then its fur was rubbed the wrong way, and it was teased and annoyed as much as possible for half an hour. Upon examining the stomach of the second cat it was found that not a step in the process of digestion had taken place.
It is wise to study the condition that we might almost call “Americanitis.” The American youth, as shown in the Olympic games, is not only a match in speed, strength, and stamina for the youth of other nations, but when it comes to the individual specialist even then the American-trained boy is his superior.
We smash records regularly. We have been doing this for a decade with hardly a break. Even those who criticize our tendency to develop individuals are obliged to admit that this continual advance in athletic prowess fosters the spirit of emulation among the masses.
Moreover, we are improving in the way of distributing our efforts, and more and more men in schools and colleges come out for physical training and development. We have not by any means perfected the system, but it is on the way.
Supplementing this general athletic development comes now the introduction into the curriculum of military drill. Finally compulsory military education or at least the compulsory physical part of it, throughout the country will set up the youth of the coming race in a way hitherto unthought of.
It is safe to say that the next decade will see our youth, and men up to the age of forty, in far better physical condition than is the case to-day.
THE PRICE OF SUCCESS
The men of this country, with their forcefulness and their ambition, their stern desire to succeed quickly and to work furiously if necessary to obtain that success, are apt to forget that Nature meant man to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow; and that just so far as he departs from this primal method of supporting himself and his family, he must pay toll.
Almost before he realizes it the American youth is a staid man of business. Only yesterday he was a boy at play, and to-day he finds himself known by his first name or nickname only to a few old classmates whom he sees at his college reunions.
He is Judge This or Honorable That. He has had no time to realize that somewhere he has lost fifteen or twenty years in this wild rush for fortune and fame.
Now in some hour of enforced reflection during a temporary illness he begins to count the cost, to think how little he has in common with that growing boy of his. But still, he does no more than wish that he might have more time for play and could see his way to longer and less interrupted vacations.
Perhaps on his next period of relaxation he plunges into an orgy of physical exercise—plays to the point of exhaustion—enjoys it, too, and sleeps like a log. Oh, this is the life once more!
When he returns to town, he determines to take more time for exercise; he will keep up his tennis or golf. But once back at work, he must make up for lost time. He returns with an improved appetite, and he indulges it.
Soon his vacation benefits have worn off, together with his vacation tan. The muscles slacken again, the waist-line increases. He feels a little remorse over the way he has broken his good resolutions, but of course he cannot neglect his business.
Then, after a hard week, followed by some carelessness or exposure, he thinks that he has the grip or a cold. He is lucky if he stays at home and calls in his physician. He does not pick up.
Now, for the first time, he hears from the doctor words that he has caught occasionally about men far older than himself “blood pressure.” But he is under fifty! The doctor says he must go slower. Now begins a dreary round indeed! He has never learned to go slow! He is an old man at fifty.
If lucky, he has made money. But what is the price? He has found precious little fun in those fifteen or twenty years since he was a boy. Of course, he has had his high living, his motor, his late hours.
His cigars have been good, but he has never enjoyed them so much as he did the old pipe at camp. His dinners and late suppers can’t compare with the fish and bacon of the woods.
What a fool he has been!
Perhaps he has caught himself in time. If so he is in luck and Nature may partially forgive him and give him a chance to “come back.” He is well scared, and he means to be good. But the scare wears off, and then, too, “business” presses him on again. And finally, still well this side of sixty, perhaps, Nature taps him on the shoulder and says, “Stop!”
“But” he pleads, “I’ll be good!”
“You are in the way,” she replies, “and the sooner you make place for wiser men the better I shall have my work done.”
But it is not alone the business world that is full of these untimely breakdowns. We lose many a man in the professional ranks with ten years of his best work before him, the man of ripened intellect, with his store of reading and experience— topped oftentimes in the very midst of that masterpiece whose volumes would be read by future generations.
Executives whose value to corporations is increasing in a compound degree suddenly receive notice that the continually bent bow is cracking; almost immediately they lose their ambition and initiative, they become prematurely aged. These are indeed expensive losses!
And all this could be saved at an expenditure of a few paltry hours a week devoted to the repair of the physical man; given that and we may safely promise that he shall round out the full measure of his mental labors.
The men of this country are going the pace at a far more reckless rate than that of any other nation. Philosophers like Prof. Irving Fisher are sounding the warning.
Shall we heed it?
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