In order for health to be achieved and maintained, there must exist a proper balance between rest and activity. As certainly as rest follows exertion, so too must activity follow repose. It is on our own two legs that progress, growth, and true health are achieved. If we rest too much and do not balance our rest with the proper amount of physical activity, we can never achieve and maintain our true health potential.
Normal physiological functioning within the human body is dependent upon nutrition, drainage, warmth, and freedom from violence. In order to insure proper functioning for all the cells, body fluids should be in perpetual motion. Exercise is essential in maintaining this grand vital circulation and in giving tone to all vital functions and perfection to all vital changes. It also secures a proper supply of blood to every part of the body, keeps the lymph moving normally and maintains the general health of the entire system. Exercise serves to strengthen and nourish all the various organs and systems of the body. It is, in fact, the most important component of the Hygienic regime for developing vital tonicity for the entire body. When exercise is neglected, all the various muscles, organs and glands and the circulatory and respiratory systems become weakened and sluggish, leading to a decrease in physiological efficiency.
Exercise is much more than simply developing strong muscles. It is body building in the complete sense of the term. Every cell and fiber is involved. The heart, kidneys, liver, skin, hair, eyes, etc., including the brain and nervous system, are stimulated and strengthened in these various functions. The tone and quality of the entire system is improved. The skeletal system, for example, depends upon exercise in order to maintain its size, strength, and physiological functions.
When a part of the skeleton is placed in a cast due to a fracture, muscle tear, etc., in order to prevent further damage and allow time for healing, the bone and surrounding musculature begins to atrophy, reducing the size and strength. However, when the cast is removed and motion is once again possible for the area, the muscle and bones respond by regaining their normal structure and function The development of respiration; the powers of digestion and assimilation; and the strength of the heart and efficiency of elimination depend largely upon physical exercise. The blood and lymph improve, respiration is deepened, and the lung capacity is increased through exercise.
When a specific part of the body is put into action, the body responds by sending more blood, nutrients, and nerve energy to that part. This response leads to overall improvement in the nutrition and drainage of the particular part involved. As the metabolism is increased, there is a consequent improvement in the tone and qualities of the tissues involved. Exercise is the most effective and efficient means for bringing about this result throughout the entire system.
The main concept for understanding the philosophy of exercise is: If we do not exercise, muscles begin to lose their tone, becoming weak and flaccid. In time, these muscles can atrophy to the point of wasting away. This same situation is true for the entire body. Not only do the structural parts of the body suffer from lack of exercise, but their function is impaired as well. By an irrevocable law of life—growth, development and strength of mind and body are acquired through exercise. Exercise is as essential to physical vigor, strength and development as air is to life. Exercise is cumulative in its benefits. If practiced correctly and consistently, strength and endurance along with coordination and agility become our reality. Posture is improved, which assures a correct relationship between the bonqs, muscles, organs and all other tissues of the body. A dimension of grace and poise along with an increase in beauty and symmetry is established and maintained. Most importantly, an overall feeling of joy and happiness from living life to the fullest is experienced. Exercise causes muscles that are tight and tense to be stretched, adhesion to be broken up, and nerve energy to be balanced and improved. It hastens the absorption and expulsion of various growths and deposits. Because of the intimate relationship between mind and body, the benefits derived from exercise on a physical plane also improve the qualify of the mind.
The effects of different exercises upon the body are extremely varied. Certain exercises develop great strength, others improve our endurance, agility, flexibility, speed, etc., but no one exercise can do it all. Therefore, it is very important that our exercise program be diverse enough to achieve all the benefits.
If deformity is to be corrected, one can learn specific exercises which will aid in correcting the problem. Some of the various deformities which benefit from corrective exercise are: round or stoop shoulders, spinal curvatures, innomonate abnormalties, bow legs, knock knees, club-foot, flat feet, various organ deficiencies, etc. These types of corrective exercises should only be performed under the watchful guidance of a skilled instructor.
Where a person is suffering from some chronic ailment or recuperating from acute symptoms, exercise can play an important and vital role in restoring the individual back to health.
At one point during the history of man, our ancestors were forced to produce great amounts of physical exertion in order to survive. But as civilization has grown and developed, and with technology creating more sedentary jobs, a large proportion of society now reaches maturity without experiencing a great deal of physical exercise. As a result, America has become a nation of fat and flabby weaklings, growing old prematurely and suffering a great deal from the ill effects produced from physical inactivity. Whereas more and more individuals are leading sedentary lives behind a desk, others are forced to overwork their bodies, thus creating injuries. Along with this imbalance, the ever-increasing specialization in work is leading to overuse of some parts of the body and neglect of other parts. As a result of this imbalance within our society, some substitute for the work of securing food, defending property, running from predators, etc., must be created. For it is nature’s will that we have exercise. Nature will remove the muscles and render any limb entirely useless that has ceased to exercise. But if we begin to make efforts in restoring the integrity of the inactive body part, nature will once again restore what she originally took away.
Society today is geared towards the development of the intellect. The prevailing feeling today is to ignore physical culturing simply by covering it up with stylish clothing and gaudy cosmetics. However, we need only to open our eyes and compare the soft, flabby, unshapely bodies of the average adult with the fine symmetrical bodies of the well-developed man or woman to realize where true ugliness lies. There is no beauty or joy in beholding a skinny, malnourished physique or a fat barrel-shaped torso that is the rule and not the exception of present day society. We idolize the creative, witty, and intellectual giants of our society, ignoring the fact that they are often weak and sickly individuals. Although we should give credit to these intellectuals for their achievements, many of these people develop their mind while ignoring their body. No one can give his best intellectual ability to the world if his body is not functioning properly. The thought of our world leaders sitting around a table, smoking, drinking, and eating constantly while deciding the fate of the world is extremely frightening. This human body of ours is responsible for carrying on the works of nutrition—digestion, assimilation, disassimilation and excretion of waste. If any of these functions are impaired, the brain, which is the organ of the mind, is also impaired.
The importance of keeping the body at a high degree of physical perfection while obeying all the laws, rules and requirements of nature is of greatest necessity. Our full potential can only be achieved when a powerful intellect is backed up by a powerful physical body — a body where the organ and tissues are strong and vigorous enough to sustain the mind, even during its most strenuous activity.
As has already been mentioned, there is a normal and inseparable relationship between the mind and the body. When there is an imbalance between these two, then the potential of both suffers. Nature has joined them together in a bond that is intimate and very delicate. The mind is dependent upon the body not only for its nourishment from the blood, but for the sensory stimulation it provides through the eyes, ears, nose, skin, and tongue. Nature has inseparably harnessed body and mind together so that they pull together in perfect concord. So long as they are allowed to do this, only good can come.
The importance of exercise can never be overemphasized. As practitioners of Natural Hygiene, you must always make your clients aware that complete health will never be maintained without regular exercise. Many schools of so-called natural healing spend a great deal of time on diet, vitamins, herbs, and techniques of body manipulation, but few ever deal with the value of exercise. Perhaps it is because the concepts and truths are too simple and not esoteric or sophisticated enough for these intellectually-oriented approaches. The philosophy of Natural Hygiene embraces the simple truths of life, and recognizes that life is motion and that we soon lose that which we don’t use. As this lesson progresses, we will discuss in more detail many of the benefits derived from exercise. The fact that exercise decreases nervous tension, increases the clarity of the mind, leads to more efficient use of organs and systems, produces more power, endurance and flexibility, etc., makes it a very important component of the Hygienic system.
Exercise, as an integral part of Hygiene, must be considered in holistic terms. Whatever forms of physical culturing we are involved in, it must influence the entire body in a balanced manner. The weight lifter who engages only in that activity but not in any other form of physical activities will have highly-developed muscles but a poorly developed cardiovascular system.
In order to insure a balanced program of physical conditioning, three types of exercise must be utilized. These are contraction, stretching, and aerobic exercises. Each type is unique and provides benefits not offered by the other two. In proper combination, these three types of exercise will provide the essentials for developing a strong, healthy body.