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A third way in which arm exercise benefits the organism is through the nervous system. Whether this is due to an increased supply of richer, purer blood, or whether the continual discharge of motor impulses in some way stores up another variety of force, we do not know. One thing is certain, the victim of neurasthenia is very seldom an individual who daily uses his arms for muscular work; with this, the limit of hurtful mental work is seldom reached.
It seems evident that arm rather than leg movements are essential to increased productive power. If these are neglected, the man as a social factor degenerates, and falls a prey to his stronger fellow man in the race for supremacy and productiveness. It may be remarked that American gout,- that condition of the blood which causes our English cousins pain in their feet, and Americans universal pains and increased irritability,— has one sovereign remedy so simple that few will take it; and this is, daily, systematic arm-exercise. It is nature's sedative, for which she charges nothing the next day, but gives us sleep instead of insomnia, and cheerfulness in place of discontent. A man may walk in an hour, four miles on a city side-walk, and reach his desk tired, exhausted of force, and better only for the open air and a slight increase of the circulation. Had he spent half that time in a well ordered gymnasium, using chest and rowing-weights, and after a sponge-bath, if he had gone by rapid transit to his office, he would have found his work of a very different color, easier to do, and taking less time to perform it. The view for some time held by Hartwell of the Johns Hopkins University, Sargent of Harvard, and others, that arin exercise prevents or does away
with nervous irritability, and at the same time increases the absolute capacity for mental work, has not been sufficiently urged or accepted.
The remedy for this state of things is to cause every man and woman to realize the importance of arm exercise. Make it compulsory in schools, and popular after leaving school. If one's occupation does not require it in itself, muscular exertion of some kind ought to be taken daily with the same regularity as food and sleep; for all tbree are necessary to the fullest development of our powers.
(2.) Noise. A second injurious influence, which pertains exclusively to city life, is incessant noise. This may not be very intense at any time, but when continuous, it acts as certainly upon the nervous system as water falling upon a harder or softer stone. Recent experiments upon animals subjected to the sound of a continuously vibrating tuning-fork for a number of hours, one or two days in all, show that the first effect is that of an irritant to the nerve centres, as certainly as an acid or an electric shock is to muscle fibre. A secondary visible effect is opacity of the crystalline lens of the eye.
The noise of a city is, at first, painful and confusing to one unaccustomed to it. I do not maintain that a really bad effect is at once apparent upon most individuals. When people are subjected to such a variety of influences, it is difficult to isolate and measure the result of one. Not infrequently, a change from a noisy to a quieter part of town is most beneficial to especially sensitive individuals. Much noise is unnecessary to the performance of most useful work. It means waste, wear, and tear in the majority of cases. The most perfect are the most noiseless machines, and this applies to the social organism as well. The rattle of badly built wagons over poor pavements, the ringing of milkmens' bells, or the jangling of those on street cars, street cries, and the like, have long been recognized as evils in European cities, and are suppressed in many places. In certain streets in Berlin, heavily laden carts and wagons are never allowed, and in others only when the horses walk. In Munich, the street cars have no bells. Recently, in New York, a measure has been under favorable consideration to abolish the ringing of milkmens' bells, and to have those on street cars taken off. The immense relief to the residents of a street in Baltimore, where the cars run every three minutes in each direction, when the bells were omitted for several weeks on account of sickness in that street, will not soon be forgotten.
Every one will instinctively call to mind boiler makers and workers in factories, as instances where men work for years in incessant din without injury. These are instances like those of pearl divers and miners, and show, rather, what can be endured by some than what is best for most. On the other hand, we have
all known individuals in whom the slightest noises cause absolute pain.
The blowing of locomotive and factory whistles within city limits, has been abolished in some of our largest municipalities. The loud ringing of church bells ai all hours of the day and night, in this age, when every one knows the hour of prayer, hardly recommends the religion of Good Will to men. All these unnecessary noises add more weight to the over-taxed nervous systems of many men and women who cannot escape them. It is certain that with the increasing intensity of city life, and its consequent strain, such things must be lessened, as far as compatible with business interests. Suitably enforced municipal regulations can do this. Elevated railroads should not be permitted in streets where men and women live. Under-ground roads should take their place where it is possible. Certain streets, or blocks at least, should be reserved for business purposes, others for dwellings alone, and heavy wagons allowed only on the first named, unless they are to leave their freight in the block. Rattling irons and chains should not be allowed. Pavements should be thoroughly laid, and then kept in repair. Londoners find asphalt the best pavement for all but the heaviest traffic, in spite of its being very slippery in wet weather. The other advantages far outweigh this one disadvantage. Horses can draw much heavier loads than on Belgian block, with less noise, while they are the cleanest pavements known. Those called asphalt pavements in America are a poor imitation of what our English brethren enjoy. Intelligent, honest city government, in a word, will give us health as well as increased business facilities.
(3) JARRING. A more hurtful influence of city life is one that has not received the attention it deserves. Combined with the preceding two, it completes a formidable trio. Very few realize the fact that we who were designed to tread upon soft Mother Earth, have become a race of dwellers upon rocks and stones. In walking, the jar of the fall of our one hundred and fifty pounds comes entirely upon the heel, since it first strikes the ground. The ball of the foot and the instep serve only to raise us for another downfall, small, it is true, but equal to the weight of our bodies falling through onehalf to one inch in a little less than one second. This shock would be sudden and unbearable, but for the arrangement of the
bones, muscles, and ligaments of the lower limb. The chief elastic distributing springs are the mass of muscles on the front of the thigh and that on the front of the leg. These deaden the shock much as two great India-rubber bands. The ankle and hip-joints help but little, while the curves of the spine and the discs of cartilage between the vertebrae aid a great deal in lessening the impact of the body with the ground. This shock in ordinary walking is less than if the body be raised one-half or three-fourths of an inch on the toes, and then suddenly let fall upon the heels; since the limb which is put forward is somewhat like the spoke of a wheel, if we imagine a wheel consisting of an axle and spokes alone. The brain bears almost the same relation to its containing bony case, the skull, as the ball does to the cup in the old-fashioned cup-and-ball, where the ball is tossed into the air and caught in its cup with a sharp shock.
If any one doubts that there is a distinct and decided jar of the brain with each step, let him walk a bundred yards when the brain is slightly over-sensitive from a bad cold or headache, and he will observe the pain each step causes. Or more scientifically, let them place (as I did recently) a pedometer inside the hat and it will register every time the heel strikes the ground. Fortunatley, the brain, in health, does not perceive these sliglit jars to its own substance, and interpret them as pain. Nature provides one more anatomical precaution against jarring by slinging up the brain in its spherical hammock, the dura mater. Now, in many people, the ill effect of these thousands of slight, daily concussions accumulate; and, after a time, concur with other causes in producing that state of disability called nervous exhaustion. An observant man may see at one side of any stone or brick side-walk in the city, wherever there is soft ground near by, a well-worn path which will be instinctively chosen by pedestrians. If we test ourourselves, we shall find the chief reason of our choice is because it jars us less to walk there than upon stones and bricks.
Most healthy men endure these concussions for a long time without very serious effects; while others, who suffer from them, are entirely restored by enforced rest, provided the circulation be at the same time maintained. It is not improbable that some of the long, cob-web-like processes of the nerve cells are damaged by being shaken for months and years over city pavements. Statistics upon such a matter are almost out of the question where insufficient exercise, noise, and jarring of the nerve centres combine with other influences to overthrow the individual or to lessen his productive powers.
If it be, then, injurious to some, to walk daily for years upon stones and bricks, and less so upon earth or softer material, this can be remedied in two ways; First, by changing the material of our side-walks to a more elastic one. Something is needed for pedestrians which will be durable, yet not hard. Some of the varieties of asphalt composition are elastic, but none of them sufficiently durable, as far as I know.
Nature suggests a remedy, in a second way, by covering the human heel itself, where we find a very elastic pad one-half an inch thick, to lessen the jar of walking. If we replace the perfectly hard boot heel by an elastic india-rubber one, we provide an inexpensive and practical remedy, which it would cost the wearer but a few cents a month to keep in repair. This cover has the additional advantage of lessening the noise of hurrying feet, and preventing broken bones in the winter season. If, now, our city authorities will, at some future time, provide gymnasia, as well as libraries and parks, make our large towns quiet, as well as clean, and give us side-walks more like Mother Earth, I believe such a favored community will produce more, and lead, collectively, a happier life than most of our modern towns do now.