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Medical Gymnastics; or Exercise applied to the Organs of Man, according to the laws of Physiology, of Hygiene, and Therapeutics. By Charles Londe, M. D. Facult. de Paris fyc. Sfc. Paris, 1821: 8vo. pp. 351. The importance of exercise and diet was perhaps never more fully acknowledged than by the physicians of the present day. Experience has proved these means to be the best preventive against disease, as well as a powerful auxiliary, if not a substitute for medicines, in many obstinate cases. One disorder in particular, which is very prevalent, has been found to yield to no other measures. Hence a regular system of exercise has lately been introduced—or rather revived—under the name of physical education. Several treatises have been written on this subject; and amongst those which are most worthy of note is that whose title stands at the head of this article. M. Londe seems to have paid much attention to the subject of gymnastics, and particularly those of the ancients. The origin of these exercises, he tells us, is of the highest antiquity, being ascribed by the Greeks to Esculapius, who lived nearly 1400 years before the Christian era: some centuries later they were reduced to an art, and made a branch of medicinal science, by Iccus and Herodicus. Hippocrates, Galen, and Celsus, wrote on the subject, and have left invaluable precepts as to the application of exercise in health and disease. The ancient legislators, persuaded that the happiness of man consisted as much in the harmony of his physical, as in the developement of his intellectual faculties, made gymnastic exercises an essential part of education. From their time little attention was paid to the subject, till the 17th century, when an elaborate work, on the ' Gymnastic Art,' was published by Mercurialis in Italy. About the end of the last century, several elementary works appeared in England, France, and Germany; and shortly afterwards several schools of exercise, or Gymnasia, were established in Prussia, and other parts of the continent. The work before us differs from most others on the subject, in being less elementary, and more scientific. It does not illustrate the particular games of the schools, but considers generally the utility of exercise in a medical point of view; showing under what circumstances it ought to be taken, and the effect produced on the animal economy by any series of movements. It is divided into
two parts. In the first part is considered the effect of exercise on the body, in health; in the second, its effect on it, in disease. The first part is subdivided into eight chapters; but a particular consideration of each of them, would exceed our present limits, a few extracts must therefore suffice as a specimen of the work. After considering, in the first chapter, motion in general, and dividing exercise into three kinds,—active, passive, and mixed— he goes on, in the second chapter, to show the effect of active exercise on the animal and organic functions, and concludes with an examination of particular active exercises, such as walking, dancing, running, leaping, hunting, swimming &c, &c. Of each of these, as practised by the ancients particularly, he gives an interesting description. On dancing, after speaking of the origin, and the different modes of using the exercise, he remarks,
"Dancing, to be healthful, should not be practised, as we (the moderns) are in the habit of practising it, after eating or during the night. Particular attention also should be paid, as to the place where this exercise is taken. The ancients, more skilful than we in the art of living, and knowing how to make the pleasures of sense subservient to corporeal vigor, never transgressed in their gymnastic exercises the several laws of Hygiene. Their dances took place in the day-time, in the public squares, in certain parts of the theatre, or in their vast gymnasia. The dances of the moderns take place in the night-time, in places small compared to the number of dancers; where there is much dust and animal exhalation, which, being taken with the air into the respiratory organs, contribute with the slightest cause, with the least cold, to produce in these parts certain irritations; the more serious as young persons, especially females, through fear of being deprived of their favorite amusement, take great pains to conceal the commencement of these affections. This cause, the dust, joined to the suppression of transpiration, appears to me sufficiently powerful to produce phthisis, a disease which has cut off so many young female dancers; and which has been ascribed by some writers to the derangements produced in respiration, by this exercise." Hunting, as an exercise, was much esteemed by the ancients. Rhazes, an Arabian author, states, that all the inhabitants of a country were destroyed by the plague, excepting hunters, who alone resisted the contagion. The first masters of the medical art, such as Chiron, Machaon, Podalyrus, Esculapius, were skilful and celebrated hunters. Swimming, was held in such estimation by the Greeks and Romans, that a knowledge of it was considered as essential to education, as a knowledge of the alphabet. Hence their common expression when they wished to tax any one with gross ignorance, 'he is versed neither in literature nor in swimming.'
Exercise of the organ of voice he thinks useful, especially after eating. This was also the opinion of many of the earliest physicians. 'If any one is oppressed at stomach,' says Celsus,' he ought to speak' (declaim.) And again, ' It is of service as a remedy for slow digestion to read aloud.' The immediate effect of this exercise is, 1st, to increase the action in the respiratory organs: 2d. to increase the motions of the diaphragm, which imparting slight shocks to the abdominal viscera accelerates their functions: 3d. to produce a greater secretion of saliva, a fluid so necessary in the process of digestion. In the third chapter, he treats of the effect of passive exercises on the functions of the economy. Of this class are riding in a carriage, sailing, swinging, &c. He also shows to what cases this kind of exercise is particularly applicable. Thus digestion, which is often interrupted by active exercise, is rendered more prompt and easy. The powers of the system are concentrated on the stomach, and the peristaltic motion of this organ is increased by the gentle shocks it receives. The fourth chapter treats of exercises of the mixed kind; the principal of which is riding on horseback. This exercise was highly recommended by the early physicians. Oribazius says, it is better than any other for giving strength to the body and stomach, but injurious to the lungs. As a prophylactic it has been universally allowed to be of great importance; and, in a therapeutic point of view, has been recommended in all chronic complaints, excepting those of a pulmonary nature. This exercise is peculiarly suited to literary men, as the position it requires expands the chest, and counteracts the effects of the stooping posture acquired in the study. In the chapters which follow, M. Londe gives an account of modern gymnasia, and of the games or exercises practised in them. He points out the effect of each exercise on the physical system, and the effect of some of them on the intellectual faculties. In the application of exercise, he also shows what consideration must be had to the constitution, strength, habit, temperament, age, and sex of the individual. Thus children, he says, should not be taught to stand or walk, but should be placed on a carpet and allowed to move freely, according to their fancy. They will not be able to walk, or stand alone, so soon, by these means; but they will eventually, like the young savage, acquire greater agility, and a more general developement of the muscles. The bad shape of the legs of many individuals may be ascribed to their having been injudiciously, forced to stand alone, before the bones were sufficiently strong to support the weight of the body. With regard to sex, many of the exercises of the male would be equally applicable to the female. In civilised life the natural difference in the appearance of the two sexes, is greatly increased by the difference in their physical education. The females of our cities, 'those frail, and delicate idols,' brought up in the bosom of luxury, are in an unnatural state. Compare them with the ancient Amazons of Tanais, or even the country women of France, and it will at once be seen how the same habits of exercise will produce a similarity of appearance. It being clear then that corporeal exercise is equally necessary to both sexes, " Can I indicate, says the author, that kind of exercise which is best suited to women? Shall I say that the passive, are the most appropriate to the female sex, because its weaker locomotive system is less adapted to the active? I cannot give such an opinion. Nor do I wish, with the extravagant laws of Lycurgus, to exact from the weaker sex those violent exercises, which giving, at once, a great developement to the muscles, destroy all that delicate contour formed by the expansion of the cellular tissue.* I am of opinion, that moderate motions are best suited to women; but think these motions should be selected, as for men, from amongst the active, passive, and mixed exercises; with reference, always, to constitution, temperament, &c."
The eighth and last chapter treats of the most important part of the subject,—the reciprocal influence of physical and mental exercises. The effect of violent muscular action, on the brain and its operations, is pointed out; as well as the effect of the exercise of this organ upon the rest of the economy, and on its own faculties. With respect to the improvement of the mental faculties, however, we must observe; that M. Londe like many eminent physiologists supposes the mind to be a function of the brain; and that consequently, in proportion as this organ is developed by proper nourishment and exercise, in the same proportion will its functions, or the intellectual faculties be perfected. The chapter and volume are concluded with some useful remarks on the kind of exercises best adapted to men of letters. As a whole, we consider the work of M. Londe of great value; we have seldom seen one where the end,—that of being useful— was so fully attained. Were we to pass any censure on it, we should say, he sometimes indulges too much in theory, and fanciful description. In a practical work we want the result of experiment, rather than the deductions of reason. A statement of facts as to what has
• By the laws of Sparta the women were obliged to use the same exercises as the men.
been attained by physical education, would serve as the best proof of the efficacy of the system. The beneficial effect of exercise, however, is within the daily observation of every one: to reguluate it, and give it a proper direction is the object of physical education. Reasoning from the simple proposition, that an organ is developed in proportion as it is exercised, M. Londe proposes by a regular series of exercises, to unite the muscular activity of the savage, to the cultivated intellect of the civilised state: in other words, to impart to man, the greatest physical and mental energy of which his nature is susceptible. We hope soon to see this work in an English dress. It should be in the hands of every one; particularly in this country, where so many are laboring under the effects of an impaired digestion. The subject is important to all, and within the comprehension of every capacity; and though some would abandon it to the physician, as proper for his care only, we shall always feel bound to neglect no opportunity of attracting to it the attention of parents and instructers, and of exhibiting it as among the most urgent departments of their duties, and the most important branches of education. Books on familiar medicine, in the hands of ignorant, and injudicious parents, have sent too many to an early grave; and we should deem him a benefactor to society, who should be the means of substituting such works as that of Londe, for books which teach parents how to cure their sick children, rather than how to preserve their health. Adam's Latin Grammar, with some Improvements, and the following Additions: Rules for the right Pronunciation of the Latin Language; a Metrical Key to the Odes of Horace; a List of Latin Authors, arranged according to the different Ages of Roman Literature; Titbits showing the Value of the various Coins, Weights, and Measures, used among the Romans. By Benjamin A. Gould, Master of the Public Latin School of Boston. Boston, 1825: I 2mo. pp. 284. Dr. Adam's compilation of Latin Grammar is used, or expressly authorised, in seminaries of every order, in most parts of the United States: it has obtained, in fact, a wider currency, and a higher authority here, than in the country in which it originated. The latter circumstance, however, is owing not to any want of respect on the part of Dr. Adam's countrymen for his valuable labors, but to the difference in the prevailing method of instruction.