It is a law of our nature that a certain amount of active exercise in the open air must be taken every day in order to be perfectly healthy; and it is supposed that the amount necessary to procure all the food, clothing, etc., for the whole, together with what would be naturally taken in amusement and walks of pleasure, if divided equally among those who were competent to labor, would be the proper amount of exercise for each; but in the present arrangement of society, the few must labor incessantly in active employment, exhausting the powers of nature, and leaving the moral and intellectual powers uncultivated; while the many are engaged entirely in sedentary employments, or no employment, except to consume what the hard labor of the few produces. Both classes transgress the laws of nature --the one, in not exercising enough; the other, in exercising too much. The facilities for locomotion are such at the present time, and the disposition of man to avail himself of them so general, that nearly all action of the lower extremities will be suspended by those who have the means of paying the expense of being trucked or cabbed to the cars, and by the cars to their desired town or city, and then trucked or cabbed again to the residence of a friend or the travelers home. The result of which is invariably, coldness of the extremities, costiveness, head-ache, indigestion, lowness of spirits, weakness; then come Indian purgative pills, calomel, blue pills, steam and lobelia, a visit to the springs, a miserable existence, and premature death. This is no picture of the imagination, but a facsimile of what is daily transpiring around us, and he whose eyes are open cannot help seeing it. But we do not expect to turn the tide that is thus carrying so many on the bosom of its waters to the grave. But the law and its penalties cannot be evaded by its violators.
Walking is probably the most healthy exercise; riding on horseback, sawing wood, digging the soil, are also excellent modes of exercise. Those who cannot exercise in the open air in consequence of ill-health or the inclemency of the weather, should engage in such exercise as they can bear within doors; and if not able to take active exercise, make use of the flesh-brush or a coarse towel two or three times a day.
But few are aware of the importance of inhaling pure air, or duly consider the consequences of inhaling that which is impure. A fruitful cause of pulmonary complaints, colds, coughs, etc., at the present time, is the practice of heating rooms with stoves, which destroy, to a certain extent, the oxygen, and leave the air unfit for respiration; and if the rooms were kept perfectly tight, the air would soon be rendered incapable of sustaining life. Our forefathers, by living in houses well ventilated, and being almost constantly in the open air, and sleeping in apartments where the pure air of heaven was permitted to circulate freely, were robust and healthy; while their posterity are so enfeebled by the pernicious customs of the age, as to be under the necessity of wrapping up head, ears and mouth, when they go out, lest they should take cold, and by this very means predispose the system to take cold.
Ablution, or bathing the surface once a day in cold water, is a very important means of preserving health. It invigorates and strengthens the system, cleanses the surface, and renders a person less liable to take cold. It should be done in the morning on rising from bed. Take a bowl of water, and with the hand bathe the whole surface, and rub briskly with a coarse towel. Those who are feeble can use the tepid weak lye-water, followed by brisk friction. We shall treat of baths as remedial agents in another part of this work.
Let those who consider health of more importance than the gratification of a depraved appetite, or conformity to foolish and destructive fashions, seek them a healthy location in the country, if they are not already thus situated; eat the fruits of the field and garden alone; dress consistently, with reference to comfort rather than fashion; construct houses so as to be well ventilated; throw aside feather beds, air-tight stoves, tea and coffee, beef, pork, butter, etc., take four hours active exercise in the open air every day when the weather will permit, and bathe the surface in cold water every day; and above all, keep a conscience void of offense: and with as much certainty as the earth revolves round the sun, or water inclines to run down hill, will they enjoy health, peace, and competence. But those who are determined to follow the foolish customs of the age; live in indolence or in constant toil, breathe the contaminated air of cities and large villages; eat hogs and sheep, rich pies and cakes, and live in constant violation of the laws of nature, must suffer the consequences-pain, suffering, anxiety, parting with loved children, constant sickness, etc. When will mankind be wise, and observe the laws of their nature, and thereby avoid the suffering that inevitably follows their transgression ? In consequence of the unnatural state in which man lives, his body is constantly diseased, requiring the aid of medicine to assist nature in her efforts to regain lost energy. To supply this demand, physicians and secret medicine-manufacturers, as thick as the frogs of Egypt, have sprung up in every town and city, many of whose remedies are as well adapted to cure disease as a hand-saw would be for shaving, and the aggregate of whom, undoubtedly, increase vastly the amount of disease and suffering.
The following remarks on the promotion of health and longevity are from the pen of the celebrated Dr. Courtney, surgeon, R. N., of
Ramsgate, England:-"The human frame is so constituted that it may, by wise training, not only be brought to bear with impunity every vicissitude of climate, but even be strengthened and hardened thereby. The stomach--the great store-house of the body, and without the integrity of whose functions life itself is but a burden--can be rendered capable of digesting any kind of food, and our bodies of performing almost any amount of labor, so long as we observe the rules which experience, physiology, reason and common sense dictate. Of these rules, the most important, perhaps, are the following:-- moderation in eating and drinking, great personal cleanliness, early rising, fearless and daily frequent exposure to the weather in all its vicissitudes, and total abstinence from intoxicating liquors. Persons who would enjoy health and length of days must give up the effeminate and luxurious habits now so fashionable; and must not live in rooms defended from the breath of heaven, by means of closely-fitting doors and windows, and heated by enormous fires to a temperature that must relax and enervate--rendering them living barometers, or like so many hothouse plants, to whom every change is blight or death. The so-called "comforts" of life are the very bane of health. Lounging on sofas and in carriages, late hours, soft beds, lying in bed till nine or ten in the morning--these, and the like luxurious habits, combined with the sedentary amusements of card playing, novel-reading, etc., are of themselves sufficient to dilapidate the strongest constitution.
"The more exercise any person takes, the larger is the quantity of oxygen he inhales, and the warmer he becomes; consequently the person who takes but little exercise, inhaling little oxygen, loses in a great measure its warming, vivifying, and strengthening agency. When there is a deficiency of oxygen in the system, the black blood from the veins is but imperfectly changed by the air in the lungs, and a blood unfit for the purposes of life flows through the body; the consequence of which is--must be, a falling off in the health, to a greater or less extent. Hence arise those very prevalent affections-- chilliness, languor, low spirits, head-aches of different kinds, faintness, palpitations, stupor, apoplexy, etc.