Source: Outdoor Sports and Games
The human body a perfect machine--How to keep well--Outdoor
sleeping--Exercise and play--Smoking--Walking
Suppose you should wake up Christmas morning and find yourself to be
the owner of a bicycle. It is a brand-new wheel and everything is in
perfect working order. The bearings are well oiled, the nickel is
bright and shiny and it is all tuned up and ready for use. If you are
a careful, sensible boy you can have fun with it for a long time until
finally, like the "One Hoss Shay" in the poem, it wears out and goes
to pieces all at once. On the other hand, if you are careless or
indifferent or lazy you may allow the machine to get out of order or
to become rusty from disuse, or perhaps when a nut works loose you
neglect it and have a breakdown on the road, or you may forget to oil
the bearings and in a short time they begin to squeak and wear. If you
are another kind of a boy, you may be careful enough about oiling and
cleaning the wheel, but you may also be reckless and head--strong and
will jump over curbstones and gutters or ride it over rough roads at a
dangerous rate of speed, and in this way shorten its life by abuse
just as the careless boy may by neglect.
It is just so with the human body which, after all, is a machine too,
and, more than that, it is the most wonderful and perfect machine in
the world. With care it should last many years. With abuse or neglect
it may very soon wear out. The boy who neglects his health is like the
boy who allows the bearings on his wheel to become dry or the metal
parts rusty. The chief difference is that when the bicycle wears out
or breaks down we may replace the parts or even buy another machine,
but when our health is injured, money will not restore it.
In order to keep well we must observe certain rules of health. By
exercise we keep the working parts in good order. If we are lazy or
indolent we are like the bicycle that is allowed to go to pieces from
lack of use. If we are reckless and foolhardy we may injure some part
of the delicate machinery from excessive exercise or strain.
Play is the most natural thing in the world but we must use judgment
in our play. A boy or girl who is not allowed to play or who is
restrained by too anxious parents is unhappy indeed. Nearly all
animals play. We know, for instance, that puppies, kittens, and lambs
are playful. It is a perfectly natural instinct. By proper play we
build up our bodies and train our minds. The healthy man never gets
too old to play. He may not care to play marbles or roll hoops, but he
will find his pleasure in some game or sport like tennis, golf,
horseback riding, camping, fishing or hunting.
In this book we shall talk about some forms of play and recreation
that are not strictly confined to children, but which we may still
enjoy even after we have become grown men and women. We shall also
talk about some children's games that some of the older readers may
have outgrown. While we play we keep our minds occupied by the sport,
and at the same time we exercise our muscles and feed our lungs and
our bodies with oxygen.
It is unfortunate that in school or college athletics those who need
exercise the most are often those who are physically unfitted to play
on the school teams. In other words, we select our runners and jumpers
and football players from among the stronger boys, while the weaker
ones really need the benefit of the sport. Every boy should take part
in school games when possible even if he is not as swift or as strong
as some other boys.
It is very unmanly of one boy to make fun of another because he is
weak or clumsy or unskilful. After all, the thing that counts and the
thing that is most creditable is to make the most of our opportunities
whatever they may be. If an undersized or timid boy becomes stronger
or more brave because he joins in games and sports, he deserves a
hundred times more credit than the big, strong boy whom nature has
given a sturdy frame and good lungs and who makes a place on the
school team without any real effort.
If we live a natural, open-air life we shall have but little need of
doctors or medicine. Many of our grandmothers' notions on how to keep
well have changed in recent years. Old-fashioned remedies made from
roots and herbs have been almost completely replaced by better habits
of life and common-sense ideas. We used to believe that night air was
largely responsible for fevers and colds. Doctors now say that one of
the surest ways to keep well is to live and sleep in the open air. In
many modern houses the whole family is provided with outside sleeping
porches with absolutely no protection from the outside air but the
roof. I have followed the practice of sleeping in the open air for
some time, and in midwinter without discomfort have had the
temperature of my sleeping porch fall to six degrees below zero. Of
course it is foolish for any one to sleep exposed to rain or snow or
to think that there is any benefit to be derived from being cold or
uncomfortable. The whole idea of open-air sleeping is to breathe pure,
fresh air in place of the atmosphere of a house which, under the best
conditions, is full of dust and germs. If we become outdoor sleepers,
coughs and colds will be almost unknown. General Sherman once wrote a
letter in which he said that he did not have a case of cold in his
entire army and he attributed it to the fact that his soldiers slept
and lived in the open air.
[Illustration: A Child's May Day Party (Photograph by Mary H.
One can almost tell a man who sleeps in the open by looking at him.
His eye is clear and his cheek ruddy. There is no surer way to become
well and strong than to become accustomed to this practice. Then you
can laugh at the doctor and throw the medicine bottles away. In
stating this I know that many parents will not agree with me, and will
feel that to advise a boy to sleep in the open when the weather is
stormy or extremely cold is almost like inviting him to his death. It
is a fact just the same that every one would be healthier and happier
if they followed this practice. In a few years I expect to see outdoor
sleeping the rule rather than the exception. Progressive doctors are
already agreed on this method of sleeping for sick people. In some
hospitals even delicate babies are given open-air treatment in
midwinter as a cure for pneumonia. My own experience is that in the
two years that I have been an outdoor sleeper, with the snow drifts
sometimes covering the foot of the bed, with the wintry winds howling
about my head in a northeaster, I have been absolutely free from any
trace of coughs or colds. Thousands of others will give the same
testimony. According to old-fashioned ideas such things would give me
my "death of cold." It rarely happens that one begins the practice of
sleeping out without becoming a firm believer in it.
One of the children of a friend in Connecticut who had just built a
beautiful home was taken ill, and the doctor recommended that the
child's bed be moved out on the porch. This was in December. The
father also had his own bed moved out to keep the baby company. My
friend told me that after the first night he felt like a changed man.
He awoke after a refreshing sleep and felt better than he had in
years. The whole family soon followed and all the beautiful bedrooms
in the house were deserted. The baby got well and stayed well and the
doctor's visits are few and far between in that household.
By all means sleep in the open if you can. Of course one must have
ample protection from the weather, such as a porch or piazza with a
screen or shelter to the north and west. A warm room in which to dress
and undress is also absolutely necessary. If your rest is disturbed by
cold, as it will probably be until you become accustomed to it and
learn the tricks of the outdoor sleeper, you simply need more covers.
In winter, the bed should be made up with light summer blankets in
place of sheets, which would become very cold. Use, as a night cap, an
old sweater or skating cap. A good costume consists of a flannel
shirt, woollen drawers, and heavy, lumberman's stockings. With such an
outfit and plenty of covers, one can sleep out on the coldest night
and never awaken until the winter's sun comes peeping over the hill to
tell him that it is time to get up.
Besides fresh air, another important thing in keeping well is to eat
slowly and to chew your food thoroughly. Boys and girls often develop
a habit of rapid eating because they are anxious to get back to play
or to school. Slow eating is largely a matter of habit as well, and
while it may seem hard at first it will soon become second nature to
us. Remember to chew your food thoroughly. The stomach has no teeth.
We have all heard of Mr. Horace Fletcher, that wonderful old man who
made himself young again by chewing his food.
There is no fun in life unless we are well, and a sensible boy should
realize that his parents' interest in him is for his own benefit. It
may seem hard sometimes to be obliged to do without things that we
want, but as a rule the judgment of the older people is better than
our own. A growing boy will often eat too much candy or too many sweet
things and then suffer from his lack of judgment. To fill our stomachs
with indigestible food is just as foolish as it would be to put sand
in the bearings of our wheel, or to interfere with the delicate
adjustment of our watch until it refuses to keep time.
While we play, our muscles are developed, our lungs filled with fresh
air and the whole body is made stronger and more vigorous. Some boys
play too hard. Over-exertion will sometimes cause a strain on the
delicate machinery of the body that will be very serious in after
life. The heart is especially subject to the dangers of overstrain in
growing boys. We are not all equally strong, and it is no discredit to
a boy that he cannot run as far or lift as much as some of his
playmates or companions. You all remember the fable of the frog who
tried to make himself as big as the ox and finally burst. The idea of
exercise is not to try to excel every one in what you do, but to do
your best without over-exertion. If a boy has a rugged frame and well
developed muscles, it is perfectly natural that he should be superior
in most sports to a boy that is delicate or undersized.
To be in good physical condition and to laugh at the doctor we must
keep out of doors as much as possible. Gymnasium work of course will
help us to build up our strength and develop our muscles, but skill in
various acrobatics and gymnastic tricks does not give the clear eye
and ruddy cheek of the person whose life is in the open air. Outdoor
sports, like tennis, baseball, and horseback riding are far superior
to chestweights or Indian clubs as a means of obtaining normal
Parents who criticize school or college athletics often forget that
the observance of the strict rules of training required from every
member of a team is the very best way to keep a boy healthy in mind
Tobacco and alcohol are absolutely prohibited, the kind of food eaten
and the hours for retiring are compulsory, and a boy is taught not
only to train his muscles but to discipline his mind. Before a
candidate is allowed to take active part in the sport for which he is
training he must be "in condition," as it is called.
There are a great many rules of health that will help any one to keep
well, but the best rule of all is to live a common-sense life and not
to think too much about ourselves. Systematic exercises taken daily
with setting up motions are very good unless we allow them to become
irksome. All indoor exercise should be practised with as much fresh
air in the room as possible. It is an excellent plan to face an open
window if we practise morning and evening gymnastics.
There are many exercises that can be performed with no apparatus
whatever. In all exercises we should practise deep regular breathing
until it becomes a habit with us. Most people acquire a faulty habit
of breathing and only use a small part of their total lung capacity.
Learn to take deep breaths while in the fresh air. After a while it
will become a habit.
Just how much muscle a boy should have will depend upon his physical
make-up. The gymnasium director in one of our largest colleges, who
has spent his whole life in exercise, is a small, slender man whose
muscles are not at all prominent and yet they are like steel wires.
He has made a life-long study of himself and has developed every
muscle in his body. From his appearance he would not be considered a
strong man and yet some of the younger athletes weighing fifty pounds
more than he, have, in wrestling and feats of strength, found that the
man with the largest muscles is not always the best man.
There is one question that every growing boy will have to look
squarely in the face and to decide for himself. It is the question of
smoking. There is absolutely no question but that smoking is injurious
for any one, and in the case of boys who are not yet fully grown
positively dangerous. Ask any cigarette smoker you know and he will
tell you _not to smoke_. If you ask him why he does not take his own
advice he will possibly explain how the habit has fastened its grip on
him, just as the slimy tentacles of some devil fish will wind
themselves about a victim struggling in the water, until he is no
longer able to escape. A boy may begin to smoke in a spirit of fun or
possibly because he thinks it is manly, but more often it is because
the "other fellers" are trying it too.
My teacher once gave our school an object lesson in habits which is
worth repeating. He called one of the boys to the platform and wound a
tiny piece of thread around the boy's wrists. He then told him to
break it, which the boy did very easily. The teacher continued to wind
more thread until he had so many strands that the boy could break them
only with a great effort and finally he could not break them at all.
His hands were tied. Just so it is with a habit. The first, second, or
tenth time may be easy to break, but we shall finally get so many tiny
threads that our hands are tied. We have acquired a habit. Don't be a
fool. Don't smoke cigarettes.
Walking is one of the most healthful forms of exercise. It may seem
unnecessary to devote much space to a subject that every one thinks
they know all about, but the fact is that, with trolley cars,
automobiles, and horses, a great many persons have almost lost the
ability to walk any distance. An excellent rule to follow if you are
going anywhere is this: If you have the time, and the distance is not
too great, walk. In recent years it has been the practice of a number
of prominent business and professional men who get but little outdoor
exercise to walk to and from their offices every day, rain or shine.
In this way elderly men will average from seven to ten miles a day and
thus keep in good condition with no other exercise.
It is very easy to cultivate the street car habit, and some boys feel
that they must ride to and from school even if it is only a few blocks
or squares. We have all read of the old men who are walking across the
country from New York to California and back again and maintaining an
average of forty miles a day. There is not a horse in the world that
would have the endurance to go half the distance in the same time and
keep it up day after day. For the first week or ten days the horse
would be far ahead but, like the fable of the hare and the tortoise,
after a while the tortoise would pass the hare and get in first.
In walking for pleasure, avoid a rambling, purposeless style. Decide
where you are going and go. Walk out in the country if possible and on
roads where the automobiles will not endanger your life or blow clouds
of dust in your face. Never mind the weather. One rarely takes cold
while in motion. To walk comfortably we should wear loose clothing and
old shoes. Walking just for the sake of exercise can easily become a
tiresome occupation, but the active mind can always see something of
interest, such as wild flowers, gardens, and all the various sides of
nature study in the country, and people, houses and life in the city.
A tramping vacation of several days furnishes a fine opportunity to
see new scenes and to live economically, but near a city you may have
difficulty in persuading the farm-wife where you stop that you are not
a tramp who will burn the house in the night. If you intend to live by
the wayside, the surest way to inspire confidence is to show in
advance that you have money to pay for your accommodations. Also try
to avoid looking like a tramp, which is quite different from looking
like a tramper.
There seems to be a great difference of opinion on the question of how
fast one can walk. The popular idea is "four miles an hour" but any
one who has tried to cover a mile every fifteen minutes will testify
that such a rate of speed is more like a race than a walk and that it
will require great physical exertion to maintain it for any
considerable distance. An eighteen or twenty-mile walk is about all
the average boy should attempt in a day, and this is allowing the full
day for the task from early morning until sunset.
Short and frequent rests are much better than long stops, which have a
tendency to stiffen the muscles. The walker on a long tramp must pay
especial attention to the care of his feet. They should be bathed
frequently in cold water to which a little alum has been added. A
rough place or crease in the stocking will sometimes cause a very
Mountain climbing is a very interesting branch of walking. It is
sometimes very dangerous as well and in such cases should only be
attempted under the guidance of some one familiar with the
neighbourhood. For rough climbing our shoes should be provided with
iron hob nails. Steel nails often become very slippery and will cause
a bad fall on rocks.
Cross-country running and hare and hound chases are much more common
in England than in America. Our runners as a rule excel in the sprints
and short dashes, although in the recent Olympic sports we have shown
that our trained athletes are the equal of the world in nearly all
branches of sport.
In many of the English schools it is a regular part of the school work
for the teacher to organize hare and hound chases. The hares are given
a start of several minutes and leave a trail by means of bits of paper
or confetti, which they carry in a bag. In this kind of running the
object to be sought is not so much speed as endurance. An easy dog
trot with deep regular breathing will soon give us our second wind,
when we can keep on for a long distance.
After any kind of physical exertion, especially when we are in a
perspiration, care must be exercised not to become chilled suddenly. A
rub down with a rough towel will help to prevent soreness and stiff
muscles. The lameness that follows any kind of unusual exercise is an
indication that certain muscles have been brought into use that are
out of condition. A trained athlete does not experience this soreness
unless he has unduly exerted himself, and the easiest way to get over
it is to do more of the same kind of work until we are in condition.
Next: THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA