PHYSICAL EXERCISE AND HEART DISEASE

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Outdoor sports and physical exercises, when used in moderation, act as a valuable brake against the onset of heart disease. This is now being recognised by an ever greater number of authorities.

This does not mean that we can gorge ourselves on rich indigestible foods or that we can wear ourselves out in business or in our social activities and hope that long walks or a Sunday spent on the greens will undo the harm. It merely means that the outdoor life and physical exercises, indulged in properly and used in conjunction with the other wholesome habits of living, will provide a well-rounded program of healthful living and serve as an added protection against the onset of these diseases.

Jean Mayer, Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health, Harvard University, in reporting on the physical fitness tests conducted by Dr. Hans Kraus and Mrs. Ruth Hirshland of the Institute of Physical Medicine, Bellevue Medical Center, pointed out that several thousand American boys and girls attending public schools were compared to children of similar ages in Austria and Italy and that the incidence of failure in muscular fitness among our youngsters was 78-3 per cent as against 8 5 per cent for the European children.

She stated further that the mortality from the so-called degenerative diseases, particularly heart disease, is exceptionally high among Americans between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five and then mentioned that accumulating evidence shows that lack of regular exercise is one of the factors involved.

We were glad to note that Jean Mayer mentioned that it was merely one of the factors, since it is important that none of the other factors that play a part should be overlooked or disregarded. She stated it very aptly when she said that our motorised merchandised “effort-saver” civilisation is rapidly making us as soft as our processed foods, our foam rubber mattresses, and our balloon tires.1

Outdoor sports and physical exercises promote the intake of oxygen into the lungs, counteract stagnation, strengthen the abdominal muscles, and increase the blood supply to the heart, and in this way do much to strengthen the heart and blood vessels.

Dr. Ernest Simonson, Associate Professor of Physiological Hygiene at the University of Minnesota Medical School, asserted that exercise enables the heart and lungs to handle large volumes of oxygen without strain and protects the nervous system against fatigue.2 Dr. Ernst Jokl, a leading European heart specialist, commented on the fact that many athletes are in peak form and able to participate in competitive activities long past the years when they would have been too old to compete a few generations ago. He said that one important explanation for this change is a life of healthful exercise.3

Dr. Julius Hofman, of Berlin and Bad Nauheim, when asked why the results obtained by exercise could not be obtained more simply and with equal certainty by drugs, said that while drugs enable the heart to utilise more of its available strength (in other words, act as stimulants), it is not known whether by continued use they increase the sum total of the hearts strength.

But baths and gymnastics we know, by the way they influence the heart, increase its strength.

Voints to Remember Here are a few points to be kept in mind in connection with physical exercise as it applies in heart diseases.

1. Never indulge in exercise indiscriminately. Make sure that you follow only those exercises which have been outlined for you to meet your particular needs.

2. A weak or debilitated person should exercise in a reclining position since this induces more complete relaxation and is least taxing to the heart.

3. Never exercise to the point of fatigue. Always stop before you are tired. If tired, stop, take deep, slow breaths, and rest, before you continue your exercises.

4. Avoid competitive sports.

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