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Timeless Advice on How to Stay Healthy

Red Wine has trace amounts of resveratrol.
The "Whitely Exerciser" shown
in the book Life & Health.

Take a minute to look around your home. How many things there have changed in your lifetime? I've watched as long playing records were replaced by cassettes, then compact discs and now digital music players. Televisions went from big boxes that sit in the living room to light flat screens that can hang on the wall. Even lightbulbs have changed, going from traditional incandescents to compact fluorescents and now super-efficient LED's.

The one thing that hasn't changed is our bodies. What we've done is learn how to take better care of them. Medicines have improved, surgeries are safer and there is an incredible amount of information available on how it all works; but our fundamental physiology hasn't changed in thousands of years. So I was intrigued when a friend gave me a little book titled Life & Health by Dr. Albert Blaisdell.

Published in 1902, the stated purpose of Life & Health was for students to "understand a few of the great laws of health and to apply them intelligently to his daily living." Since we live in a world full of up to the minute information, I wanted to compare the advice people are being given today, versus what the experts said 100 years ago.

When Dr. Blaisdell talked about alcohol he said, "Men under the influence of alcoholic liquor may do an increased amount of muscular work for a very few minutes, but such an increase is produced at the expense of energy which is needed in enduring sustained exposure or work." In other words, drinking alcohol may give you a temporary boost, but it can be a bad thing overall. He concluded by saying, "Men who are trained for athletic contests are strictly forbidden to use alcoholic beverages."

Turns out, that's pretty good advice. What did Dr. Blaisdell say about Tobacco?

"Tobacco tends to impair the energy of the muscular tissues as alcohol does, by its paralyzing effect upon the nervous centers. This applies especially to the young, in the growing age between twelve or fourteen and twenty, the very time when the healthy body is being well knit and compacted."

The book went on to say, "Several directors of physical education in our colleges have clearly demonstrated by personal examination and recorded statistics that the use of tobacco among college students checks growth in weight, height, chest-girth, and, most of all, in lung capacity."

The dangers of smoking were apparent, decades before the United States Surgeon General told the country to quit.

In a section titled, Muscular Coordination and Physical Training the book reads, "He who has been physically well trained has both a more economical and a more intelligent use of his muscles." Exercises like rowing, baseball and bicycle riding are offered as examples of things you could do to train your muscles.

There's even information about exercise equipment. Underneath a picture of a cable exercise machine is the statement, "A convenient machine by means of which all the muscles of the body may be easily and pleasantly exercised, with sufficient variations in the movements to prevent monotony." A woman was shown exercising (in a floor-length dress) with the Whitely Exerciser and there's even a drawing showing the muscles that would be worked if you used a rowing machine.

Workout equipment for everybody nearly seventy years before Nautilus first began marketing selectorized strength equipment to gyms across the country.

It didn't stop there. One hundred years before the United States Government said we should exercise at least an hour a day, Dr. Blaisdell said, "...an adult of average height and weight, engaged in study or in any indoor or sedentary occupation, should take an amount of exercise equivalent to walking five or six miles a day." The advice was right on.

Change may be sweeping through our lives, but the simple things have stayed the same. Watch your drinking, quit smoking and try to get at least one hour of exercise a day. Are you following this timeless advice?

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