Images from Hitchcock and Hitchcock´ book.

Images from Hitchcock and Hitchcock´ book.

The following extracts from Hitchcock & Hitchcock’ 1860 book Elementary Anatomy and Physiology for Colleges, Academies and Other Schools, which I wrote about several times before, are so good and pertinent 153 years later that I could not resist the urge to post them here.

As you will see, no comments are really needed…

“277.-5. Especial want of Exercise by Students and Sedentary People. – We see that students and other sedentary persons are in special need of physical exercise, and should consider it a moral duty to secure it, for it stimulates every organ to a healthy action. The blood flows more readily, and more completely fills all the minute vessels ; the glands of the skin act more vigorously; the lymphatics and nutritive vessels perform their part more perfectly ; and even the nervous system is kept in a healthy state by exercise. It is best, however, to get exercise if possible with some other motive than a mere conviction of its necessity and importance. For if we are interested in pursuing an object, the mind acquires a healthy action, and by its reaction brings on a state of perspiration in the body. In this case we have obtained two ends, the muscular system has been exercised, and the mind has gained full recreation from study. Hence the study of natural history, and especially those branches of it which require field exercise in collecting specimens, not only strengthens the mind and furnishes new objects of thought, but is an admirable method of gaining bodily strength.”

“278.-6. Value of Gymnasia, etc., to Colleges and Academies.- We see how injurious to health is the stimulating plan adopted in too many of our higher seminaries of learning. The mind is crowded to its utmost with labor; too much time is taken up with cultivating the intellect, while the body is left to take care of itself. A gymnasium or some equivalent means of taking exercise is as important a thing to our colleges and academies as are the buildings, libraries and cabinets themselves. And may it not be the reason why literary men are generally so great sufferers from ill health, that so little attention is paid to physical culture during the preparatory and collegiate course? Is it not poor economy to take so much pains to cultivate the inhabitant, when the house that it is to live in is such a miserable tenement, and receives so little care and improvement?.”

The following remarks are also provided by the authors, right before the description and drawings of “many simple gymnastic exercises which may be indulged in by everybody, boys and girls, men and women, without an outlay of any thing except a few dimes, and the use of a few yards of space anywhere on terra firma.” (P141-144)

Remarks upon muscular development


With the existing customs of the wealthier classes of society, and our higher seminaries of learning especially, it is hardly possible to say too much upon the necessity of physical education: not that it is best to lower the standard of intellectual culture in the least, or to dictate how those who are possessed of an abundance of wealth shall dispose of it, but simply to say that a thorough physical education is essential for a proper enjoyment and improvement of our whole nature, body, mind, and soul. The evils of a neglect of this branch of education exhibit themselves, not only in puny clergymen and lawyers, but in the meager and attenuated physiques of our mothers and sisters.


Boys, especially when boys, will run, jump, shout, and be in the open air in spite of any thing but the closest watch ; in fact it is thought proper that boys should be ruddy in countenance and healthy, but with girls it is not so. By grossly perverted usages of society, it is considered improper for girls to run and jump and shout, and especially so out of doors; but while mere children even, they must act as young ladies, and never move except in a precise and measured manner, often as unnatural as it is injurious ; and any thing that requires muscular effort, is regarded as vulgar, and of course not to be undertaken. Now, physiology tells us that just the thing which our girls and ladies stand in need of at the present day is active, vigorous muscular effort, such as walking, rowing, riding on horse-back, and calisthenic and gymnastic exercises. And let the question be suggested to parents, guardians, and in fact all interested in the prosperity or even the existence of the Anglo- Saxon race on this continent, whether the physical development of ladies shall be neglected through the idle whim of its impropriety (which often only generates a false modesty or prudishness), and thus tend to a deterioration of the race which is now in fearful progress in the United States.


Without a proper exercise of the muscles in man or woman, all the other portions of the body must suffer, and if so, why, through an over sensitive, prudish caution, must woman be the unfortunate victim? The old Greeks —heathen though they were— did not neglect the development of the body in either men or women. And while they most thoroughly disciplined the intellectual powers, their “seminary of learning” was the gymnasium, where, as prominent characteristics, were the running, wrestling, and boxing exercises, and by them regarded as equally important with intelectual effort.


But though the neglect of muscular exercise is the most sadly evident in the female portion of society, yet it is not confined here. For many of our educated men are of feble physical culture, mainly because of the cultivation of the intellect at the expense of the body. Most men in the academical and professional schools are apt to regard study as first and foremost, and a care of the body afterwards —if there be any time for it! How many make it a duty —and a religious one too— to take all the time that can possibly be secured for study, and leave the exercise as a thing desirable but not essential! But we maintain that a system of education which simply crowds the mind with discipline, to the neglect of physical culture, is not only a defective, but a monstrously pernicious system. Students may bear the cramming process through the academical, collegiate, and even professional course, but sooner or later the body will be overpowered. Nature’s laws cannot be violated without suffering the penalty at some time ; and of what service can the most cultivated minds become, if the body is too feeble to use their learning? Of what beauty is the most brilliant gem without the art of the lapidary to develop and exhibit its splendor?


In how few educational institutions in our country is there any thing like a system of exercise suggested, or much more required? In how few of them does muscular development meet with any thing but discouragement?


It is true that muscular development has for too long a time among us been associated with the lower class of people, as prize-fighters, shoulder-hitters, bruisers and horse-racers, in all which cases it should meet a decided disapproval. But is this a natural tendency of physical development? Is it necessary that a well-developed man must of necessity be a brutal fighter? or that a beautiful horse must necessarily lead his master to expose him to cruel excesses to test his speed? If we do adopt the principle that physical development has such an immoral tendency, is there any culture of body or mind that we shall not be compelled to resign to the great tempter, since he can so sadly pervert every thing?


Ought not then a gymnasium or some equivalent means of physical culture, to be attached to all our educational institutions (female as well as male), as well as models, libraries, cabinets, and apparatus? And if so, why should there not be regular trainings of the body required by instructors as well as mental exercises? And since but a small portion of time is required for physical exercise if it be vigorous, as it will of necessity be in a gymnasium, why may not a portion of school duties each day be a half hour or an hour of exercise in the gymnasium morning and evening? Does not every practical teacher see that at least this would relieve the necessity of a great many excuses, such as for ‘head- ache’, ‘feel sick’, ‘unable to study to-day’, etc.”

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