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How to Keep Your Body in Good Running Order

Live Youthfully Now front cover

Live Youthfully Now

Russell A. Kemp

Chapter 10
How to Keep Your Body in Good Running Order

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Many of us want to stay young in mind and body. In order to be effective, our desire has to be translated into action, intelligent action. We should seek to understand what our body needs to function at its best for us. Then we should make up our mind to give our body whatever it requires, to care for it even better than we care for our car.

For it is probably safe to say that if we treated our car as casually as many of us treat our body, we would soon have car trouble! And it would serve us right. Fortunately, where cars are concerned, the service stations keep reminding us of their needs, and checking to see that those needs are supplied. Even the most unthinking driver gives his car the minimum of care needed to keep it in good running order.

It is also probably safe to say that our mental attitude toward our car is based on the fact that it cost us money. Having paid our good money for it, we want to get our money’s worth out of it.

This attitude does not apply to our physical body. We have had a physical body ever since we can remember. We never paid anything for it, so we take it for granted, as we do the majority of the good things in life. But suppose you had paid for your body. Suppose it had cost you a million dollars. How would you be treating it right now?

Another question: Can you buy a living, functioning human body, such as yours, and be able to live in it, even for a million dollars?

Then how much is the body worth that you have right now?

Since you cannot get another one at any price, your present body is priceless, isn’t it?

You have a body that could not be replaced for all the wealth on Wall Street. How well are you taking care of this priceless body of yours? How much do you know about its needs? Are you just taking everything about your invaluable body for granted, just letting it take care of itself? You may be thinking: “Why not? Why shouldn’t I take its performance for granted? Everybody else does.”

But you are not everybody else. You are different. You are progressive. You are interested in living as long as you can, provided you can enjoy life as long as you live. That is why you are reading this book.

Let me give you my ideas of what that “billion-dollar-plus” body of yours needs to keep it in good running order, regardless of passing years. First, good health depends on understanding your body’s needs, and caring for them intelligently. Second, you must understand the needs of your mind, and care for them. (I have dealt at some length with the needs of your mind, particularly its need for consciously directed renewal, also the need for constant exercise of the mental faculties by studying and learning new things, in Chapters IV and V.)

But above all, there is a spiritual factor in continued good health. I believe that continued good health depends on understanding your own deep, inner relationship to the spiritual Source of life within you. For is it not the divine life force within your body that really keeps it alive and well?

Does this sound too religious, or too deep, or too “spooky” to be practical? It is not a bit more mysterious than putting distilled water in the battery of your car ... and it is just as practical. Few of us can explain the chemical process by which distilled water keeps a car battery alive, and in fact the whole construction and operation of a battery is a mystery to us. But that does not prevent us from keeping that battery supplied with what it needs to keep the car in aood running order. We take the word of others who know more about the matter; that is good common sense.

I hope that you will be just as practical in your approach to understanding the needs of your body and your mind, and the role of your inner spiritual organism, so that you can do your part in supplying their needs. The wisest men of science do not know everything about the human body. But that does not prevent them from sharing with us what they have learned and what they do know about the body and the mind. They have found that certain things work, therefore they recommend and use them.

There is today a great store of information on the proper care of the body, available for anyone who desires it. Authorities on nutrition, on medicine, on the part the mind plays in keeping the body well, on exercise and recreation, have given of their knowledge and experience.

If we are sufficiently motivated to understand and care for the needs of our mind and body, we can do it. Yes, we can, if we choose, live long and stay vital and energetic. But as a rule this will demand some extra effort and discipline from us. We should be ready, if need be, to give up some our customary living habits in order to enjoy good health. Many the average person’s habits are founded on nothing more than custom, erroneous beliefs even superstition. Such habits are not good enough for one who wants to live in this new way enjoy what doctors now call “positive health”. With the resources of up-to-date information available a we really need is enough “want to,” then we shall become well informed on what this one and only body of ours needs to live in new, youth-giving ways.

Yet for the finest results, we shall need a kind of inward monitor, a secret wisdom, to help us combine all this information and use it intelligently, in the way that will meet our own particular needs at any given time.

Just imagine what it would be like always to have instantly available to you the advice and instruction of someone who was an expert on all these different ways of caring for your body and giving it just what it needed. Well, you do have such a source of guidance available to you. It is right in the depths of your own inner nature at this moment.

But this marvelous inner intelligence is seldom known to the average person. He is familiar with only one phase, one level of his mental equipment, the intellect, or conscious mind. He sometimes has hunches, intuitions unexplainable flashes of knowledge, sometimes indicating the future. He does not know that such things are the product of this same intelligence we are talking about, the “superconscious mind,” which transcends in wisdom a power anything dreamed of by his human intellect.

All that is required for us to become more aware of this superconscious intelligence and come in tune with it, is our believing that it is within us, that it is deeply interested in our welfare, and our seeking for its guidance. It is on our side. It knows all the answers. It wants us to know the answers. In fact, it is devoted to our well-being, safety, and self-preservation!

Again, although this may sound mysterious and “occult,” it is not. For the wondrous power that formed your body before it was born is infinitely wise and superlatively knowing; you and I cannot even imagine its wealth of knowledge. After we examine the wonders that life performs in the world of nature, where it is the builder of all living forms, our wonder grows. The body of even a tiny, fragile insect, when examined under a powerful microscope, is a miracle of ingenuity and power. Obviously it has been planned and constructed with as much care as is lavished on the body of the highest type of animal.

Such infinite care and solicitude can mean only one thing: the Power that makes these things loves them. The body of the tiniest midge, as well as the body of man, is a labor of love.

As further proof that all living things are beloved, some sort or provision is always made for their needs. Many are provided with means of self-defense or protection. This, to me, argues that life, or the Power responsible for making these things, sustains them and seeks to care for them. Can we not argue that it is a loving Power which gives life to them, and to us, and to all things?

If you will ponder on this thought that there is a wonderful Superintelligence which is the source of the life in your mind, and also think about the loving nature of this Intelligence, you will begin to have faith that it formed you and loves to care for you in every way. Never think of the life force in your body as being mechanical in nature. Do not think of it as belonging to the world of matter, either. Cultivate the idea that the life in your mind and body is spiritual; it derives from God, and God is infinite love and wisdom.

Besides thinking of the life in yourself as divinely intelligent and loving, think of life as constructive in nature. Life has to be constructive in order to build the innumerable varieties of bodies and structures required by all its myriad expressions on the earth. Being constructive, driven by its very nature and ability always to build, to maintain, progress, advance, and improve, life is always in favor of more life. Also, life is in favor of more strength, more energy, more beauty, more physical grace and freedom. Life loves to increase livingness in anyone who knows how to give it the opportunity.

Naturally, life is always in favor of preserving and maintaining itself by renewing and bettering itself. It loves to grow, to be in action, to expand. It springs instantly into action to defend, protect, rescue, and heal any part of itself.

If we can remember this, we will not be so fearful of germs or viruses or infections which we are urged to believe are always trying to invade us. Life is not in favor of viruses or germs, if they are destructive. It will always battle and seek to destroy such invaders, because life is in favor of good health. From the absolute standpoint, life force cannot be diseased, for it is the nature of divine life to renew and purify itself constantly.

Life cannot be in favor of old age, if by age we mean feebleness, stiffness, infirmity, and loss of power to live. By its very nature, life is always in favor of more livingness, of continued livingness; perhaps (as some of us think) life is even in favor of living forever!

Being constructive by nature, life is in favor of youthfulness, freshness, flexibility, vigor, and energy, because these express life. Life responds quickly to wholesome, constructive activity. Perhaps there is nothing that encourages us quite so much as seeing how quickly our body responds to regular physical exercise by becoming more youthful and energetic. The tissues of the body will soon change their appearance. They will firm up and impart a freshness and tone to the skin, which of course will banish wrinkles.

The muscles will shed unsightly fat and become more rounded, well defined and springy. Joints and muscles will become more flexible. What a feedback of happiness we feel now! This is not vanity; it is increased self-respect. We all crave this kind of natural happiness. Sometimes we try desperately to obtain it by unnatural or wrong methods. For example, when the body doesn’t get the exercise it needs, it causes a craving in us. This is actually a hunger of our muscles for exercise and activity. Not knowing its real nature, many people react to this muscle hunger by giving the body more food to quiet its cravings, until gradually there isn’t much talk coming to them from their body. They have overstuffed it with food and dulled it with drink or stimulants, so that the body tone is dulled by weakness and fat. How tragic to do this, when the quiet, satisfying happiness we really crave can be ours for the price of a little effort!

Fortunately the body, which will condition itself so easily and quickly to almost any mode of living, will recondition itself just as quickly to a new pattern if given the opportunity. For instance, if you have not been taking regular exercise, your body is conditioned to not exercising, to being inactive in this respect. It may be soft and relatively weak. It will protest at first when you do start to exercise. The thought may occur to you that it is difficult or even risky for you to exercise. Your subconscious mind may react with fear to any unusual exertion, because it has been conditioned to physical inactivity.

Of course it is necessary for you to use good judgment and not overdo in any way. Think of the wisdom of your superconscious mind, supervising your efforts, restraining you if necessary, inspiring you if needed. Your body is so highly adaptable that it will quickly recondition itself to exercise and activity. You will gain more energy. As your energy increases you will find it natural to be more active and energetic. You will walk more, and walk more briskly. You will be on your feet more and sit less. Soon your body will be conditioned to brisk movements, activity, energetic action, and enjoyment of life. Try this, and see how easy it is to condition your body to be more youthful through exercise.

The very adaptability of our body and mind, the way they condition themselves often without our knowing that they are doing so, can be our greatest ally in progress toward any desired end, provided we use this principle of conditioning by consciously directed thinking and activity.

I once lived in a men’s dormitory. One of the front steps had developed a hollow in it. The hollow was filled in with cement, and boards were placed over the step until the cement hardened. After the boards were removed I sensed that my foot felt something was wrong with the step. It was feeling for the hollow which it had been conditioned to find there, and to which it had adjusted. This feeling of strangeness persisted for several days, then my foot adjusted to the new, smooth step. It was reconditioned to a smooth step, without a hollow.

People can become accustomed to abnormal ways of living, adjust subconsciously to them, and feel lost when these abnormal conditions are removed. A friend had been under constant stress due to the prolonged illness of a loved one. After her loved one’s passing, she did not react at all as she had expected to do. Instead of feeling free at last from the stress and strain, she felt almost as if she were the one who had died. She had conditioned herself so subtly to the strain and sorrow during the long illness that now she did not know herself. She found herself alone with a new self, unfamiliar, lost. The period of adjustment was trying. For a time she wanted only quiet and seclusion. Books and meditations which had meant so much now seemed empty. But as I write, she has emerged to some extent from the experience, feeling that she is a stronger person, knowing better than ever before “who she is, and determined to be herself, not just to react to the actions of other people.

It is fortunate for us that life is constructive. The sheer constructiveness of life will always pick us up, even out of the depths, if we are patient, refuse to get panicky, and work with our inner Self during any period of reconditioning. Let us remind ourself over and over:

Life is constructive. Life has a divine idea of the divine way for me to live and to he. Life is working in me right now to bring this divine idea into shape, into form.

We can trust life. To quote Ella Pomeroy: Life takes shape. It builds for itself a house, a form, it makes itself manifest. The history of an intelligent human life is the story of an inner stream of activity seeking to win to itself the type and style of form that will best express itself.”

Charles Fillmore delighted in studying and meditating on the true nature of the life force that animates us. He was constantly seeking to express God’s life in greater measure. In his great book The Twelve Powers of Man, Mr. Fillmore said, “Life is the energy that propels all forms to action.”

Since we know that all material things are composed of units of electrical energy in a state of high incessant activity, it seems clear that life demands activity of some kind as a condition of its continued expression.

Which brings up again the importance ot maintaining physical activity in order to keep young. The physicians who study the aging process strongly recommend regular physical exercise for people of all ages who wish to stay in good health. In the American Medical Association booklet, A New Concept of Aging,” Dr. F. J. L. Blasingame, speaking of exercise, says, “From Dr. Paul Dudley White, for example, it was learned that regular exercise can be a potent defense against deterioration at any age, and there is no such thing as an age when exercise should be stopped.”

And Dr. Frederick C. Swartz, chairman of the Committee on Aging, American Medical Association, has been quoted as saying, “The life expectancy figure should jump ten years in one generation if Americans — along with enjoying the medical advances of our time — would exert some degree of self-discipline in practicing daily mental and physical exercise.”

What form of exercise does he recommend? He says the best daily exercise he has seen is the Royal Canadian Air Force series, which takes only eleven minutes. But, he points out, he does not regard as exercise such things as golf, bowling, or even housework, because people do not exert themselves enough. Walking, he says, is fine exercise but most people, especially women, don’t really know how to walk; they just shuffle along.

Larry Lewis, who is enthusiastic about the value of running, and maintains his remarkable physical fitness at the age of 101 by running more than six miles every morning, recommends walking as the best way for anyone to start conditioning himself. If you are not used to walking, he says, you should start out by walking a few blocks a day at first. As you gain strength, walk another block or two, till you are walking a mile easily every day. If you want to jog, start to jog one block out of your mile walk, then two blocks, and so on. In this way, you will gradually build up your endurance, and soon you will not want to limit yourself to one mile, but will increase the distance you walk or jog, without forcing yourself. Of course, says Lewis, if you doubt your physical soundness, check with a physician before you attempt any form of physical exercise.

How easy it is to convince ourself of the value of physical exercise! We are all in favor of exercise in theory, or as the diplomatic people say, “in principle.” It is usually much more difficult to make ourself get up out of an easy chair and actually do our exercises regularly. This takes motivation.

Even such a sturdy character as Benjamin Franklin, although he wrote forcefully of the value of walking and using one’s legs, apparently suffered at times from “motivational fatigue,” which caused him to find easy and highly rational excuses for avoiding the use of his legs.

In his amusing “Dialogue with the Gout, an imaginary argument carried on at midnight when Franklin was being kept awake by the sharp pains of gout, he tells how “Madame Gout” reproaches him because he has not followed his own advice to go walking in the morning, but has made a variety of excuses instead. Franklin says airily, “Oh, that may have happened ten times in a year.” To which Madame Gout pointedly replies: “Your confession is not anywhere near the truth. The actual amount is nearer two hundred times.”

Of course we all know how true it is that a tendency to skip our exercise period or to avoid physical effort altogether is strengthened with every evasion of effort. Whereas every little bit of exercise makes it easier to take more exercise. Let me jot down a few incentives to exercise:

Don’t be just a wishy-washy “Wish-I-coulder”! Get up off the end of your spine. It’s had far too much exercise already. Do your exercises!

Regular physical exercise makes your body feel lighter and younger. Lack of exercise causes it to feel heavy and old.

The easy chair, it is said, has probably killed ten times more people, before their time, than has the automobile.

Do you want to be happier? Then put more happiness into your life. There is a quiet “feedback” of happiness from a body that is properly and regularly exercised. When the body is exercised, circulation is speeded up and tissues renewed. Though the body may protest at first if it has been allowed to stagnate, later it will purr with satisfaction.

Think of your muscles being firm, supple, dynamic, strength-packed, feeding back to you the quiet feeling of happiness and satisfaction that a well-cared-for and exercised body gives you as a reward.

Voluntary exertion in the form of physical exercise is not only beneficial physically, it is also beneficial psychologically. It boosts your self-respect, so it improves your morale. Making yourself do your exercises regularly does give you an increased feeling of self-respect. You feel better not only physically but also mentally. Increased self-respect increases your self-confidence and your satisfaction in living.

Regular exercise periods are like deposits in a “bank of youthfulness.” And it is the regularity of your deposits that counts. Have you made a deposit in your “bank of youthfulness” today, by taking exercise? Try putting a gold star on the calendar every day you exercise, or keep a record of some kind. It is a great help, and also an inspiration, to see that you have been faithful.

Long ago I read this maxim by a professional wrestler who had recovered from a broken back and returned to the ring through regular exercise. He said: “The weaker the body, the more it commands. The stronger the body, the more it obeys.”

Regular exercise and physical activity mean youthful health and freedom of movement. Inactivity, indolence, and avoidance of regular exercise mean stagnation in mind and body, stiffness, fears, overweight, and all the sorrows of age. As Jack LaLanne, the popular television health teacher, says, “What makes tomorrow better is what you have done today.”

The most startling incentives to regular physical exercise have been produced by research in the effect of physical inactivity on the human body, done at the University of California at Los Angeles by Dr. Laurence E. Morehouse.1 Dr. Morehouse, who is professor of physical education, has been conducting experiments for eighteen years to find out what changes take place in the sedentary man. (I define the sedentary man as one who “sits on the end of his spine, in a more or less upright position, for a very large part of his time.”)

As a result of his research, Dr. Morehouse feels that regular physical exercise should be thought of more as self-preservation than as self-improvement! Of course the program that Dr. Morehouse supervises was designed to find out what happens to the human body when inactivity is carried to extremes. “It’s like putting sedentary man under a microscope,” he says, “for it magnifies the reactions that occur when he is moderately sedentary.” Volunteers are subjected to such situations as being buried in sand for several hours, or kept floating in water for two weeks at a time. Some are placed in reclining chairs, with their hands strapped to their sides; others must remain lying down in bed for a month or more. In some cases the confinement is achieved by a plaster cast covering the whole body, the objective being to restrict all movement.

What happens to the human body as a consequence of such restriction of movement? We think first of the changes in muscular tissue, and there are some. But Dr. Morehouse says that immobilization affects body chemistry as well. Coronary blood vessels feeding the heart begin to deteriorate very quickly, and even blood components are altered.

Still more startling are the effects of inactivity on the bones. Most of us probably think of our bones as being fixed, solid, and permanent in their nature. But bones like other parts of the body are alive and subject to change. Lack of physical movement, says Dr. Morehouse, causes bones to become spongy and porous. The density of the bone diminishes and it becomes far more susceptible to fracture. Spontaneous fracture of the hips in older women may be explained by this phenomenon.

Lack of exercise may be a lethal letdown for older people. A rocking chair is no substitute for standing on one’s own feet, at least a part of every day. The degenerative changes that Dr. Morehouse has identified in the course of experiments in the Human Performance Laboratory have prompted him to set up guidelines to help the average person prevent these regressions. He has demonstrated that by observing a few simple rules the debilitation that overtook his volunteers after only a few days of physical inactivity can be avoided.

When asked by the “University Explorer” (Hale Sparks) to tell what type of activity he recommends to avoid physical decline, Dr. Morehouse gave as his first guideline, “Stay on your feet for a total of two hours a day, every day.”

He urges people who do a great deal of driving or sitting behind a desk to take every opportunity to stand up and walk around. The driver should get out and walk around while the gas tank is being filled. The office worker should stand and stretch during a telephone call. Getting things out of a file increases the time you spend on your feet. Being on the feet for a couple of hours a day keeps the bones strong by placing them under what Dr. Morehouse calls “longitudinal compression.”

He has proved that to maintain healthy bones one must subject them to frequent shock and strain. There is laboratory proof that vertical stress from standing is essential to physical fitness. Persons who do not spend much time on their feet have a tendency to faint easily, because blood tends to collect in their legs when they do rise and blood pressure tends to drop in the heart and brain. In the long run, then, the housewife who spends several hours a day at the stove, the sink, and the end of a broom can take consolation in the fact that her proper quota of longitudinal compression is built into her job!

Another important physiological requirement is to raise the heartbeat rate to 120 beats per minute for a period of from one to three minutes, every day. Dr. Morehouse says this can be accomplished by any exercise strenuous enough to make vou feel your heart pounding in your chest. If you begin to feel a pounding in your temples, however, it means you are overexerting yourself.

According to Dr. Morehouse, hurrying up a flight of stairs two steps at a time will usually accelerate your heart to 120 beats per minute, as will carrying a big load of groceries, laundry, or rubbish. Individuals who do not exert themselves in some manner to step up their heart rate are allowing it to degenerate. Without this periodic step-up the size of the heart muscle actually decreases. The bloodvessels feeding the heart deteriorate, cutting down coronary circulation. These regressions eventually cause the heart to pound heavily after the slightest exertion, and in time might even lead to biochemical failure of the heart.

If you want to reduce, here is another startling discovery made by Dr. Morehouse: Exercise before eating actually depresses the appetite! Lack of physical activity does not reduce your appetite, it increases it. If you want to eat less, he suggests taking some physical exercise just before eating.

If you accept his dictum that regular exercise is self-preservation, you should use your ingenuity (if you are at all sedentary) to make exercises out of tasks, perhaps to take an exercise break instead of a coffee break. You can walk for exercise in a very small space, if you do it properly.

For instance, on a Canadian Pacific steamer coming down the Inside Passage on the British Columbia coast, a friend and I watched fascinated as the captain took his “constitutional” in the narrow confines of the ship’s bridge. Head erect, shoulders back, hands clasped behind his back, he paced with measured, brisk, emphatic steps across the little space. A few crisp, snappy steps, then about face, forward and back he marched. He explained to us that he could walk several miles a day by this method. I find that if you have a clear space of twenty feet in your office (probably twice what the captain had), if you walk this or jog it fifteen times, you have covered a hundred yards. Try it, several times a day.

Readers of this book will be in such varying degrees of physical fitness that it is inadvisable for me to recommend even mild exercise for everyone. You must be the judge of what you can do in this respect. If you are unaccustomed to exercise, or have any doubts about your physical condition, check with your physician. All recommendations made here concerning exercise are for those in good health, or those who are assured that they are capable of exercising without harm. If you are capable of exercise, you can choose some sort of program for yourself and keep at it, with the resulting exhilaration and improved physical fitness that will result as your reward.

I notice that regularity in taking exercise counts. After only three days of exercising regularly instead of occasionally, I began to feel the benefits. Already I was more flexible, and had more endurance. I began to feel this “feedback” of quiet happiness and sense of well-being from my body. Five days of regular exercise was even better. On about the seventh day I had occasion to run for my bus: no breathlessness ... I did it easily.

Don’t complain if you have to be on your feet. Think how good it is for your bones and your heart and your muscles.

If you are sedentary find opportunities to stand as often as you can. Learn stretching exercises and do them. There are now paperback books available giving instructions and motivation for every type of exercise — the milder yoga types, the stretching types, the exercise-by-posture, the more vigorous forms such as the Royal Canadian Air Force series already mentioned, aerobics, and others.

The one basic thought to remember is: If you want to live longer and stay younger, regular physical activity is a “must.”

In our cultivation of youthful maturity, in gaining the pep and drive of youth with the judicious moderation of maturity, neither exercise alone, nor diet alone, nor metaphysics and right thinking alone will give us the total effect. We need a judicious combination of all these, plus exercise of the mind, in the form of studying something new. And lastly, we need to provide for the needs of the great hidden spiritual side of our nature, through some form of religion. I have read that Larry Lewis, after taking his morning run, has a nap and then goes to a Bible study class.

You can of course exist for a certain length of time without doing these things. But can you really live, as you want to live, at peak enjoyment of life, without them?

  1. All material on Dr. Morehouse’s experiments used by permission, of Dr. Morehouse, University of California “University Explorer,” and CBS.