The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates may have established the first rule of physical fitness some 2,400 years ago. He outlined what he called the Law of Use which governs the living organism: "That which is used develops; that which is not used wastes away." Modern medical practice still follows that Hippocratic concept in preventive medicine as well as in the rehabilitation of surgical patients. Dr. Harry J. Johnson expressed the Hippocratic Law of Use this way: "Life itself is movement. Even the developing embryo moves and stretches within the uterus by the fifth week of life - long before the mother becomes aware of it. And what does the mother say when she feels the first detectable stirring? She says she 'feels life.' "
Physical fitness is not only one of the most
important keys to a healthy body, it is the
basis of dynamic and creative intellectual
(John F. Kennedy)
Planning Your Own Physical Fitness Program
Any weight control program in connection with physical fitness improvement should be tailored to your individual needs and directed by a physician. Only your doctor knows for sure about your individual nutrition needs, and no two individuals are precisely alike. The same rule applies to physical conditioning: you could have a hidden bodily deficiency that would not cause problems in a sedentary life style. But a sudden strenuous program of jogging, calisthenics, or other athletic activity could be enough to push you over the brink. After an examination, the doctor can recommend a program that will permit certain types of exercise but restrict or eliminate others. There are so many methods of exercise available today that an effective program can be built around any individual physical problems.
Exercises Keyed to Age
Age ordinarily is one factor in determining which exercises are most suitable for an individual, although everybody knows people who seem young at 60 and others who appear to be old at 30. The general rule for determining whether it is safe to begin an exercise program is this: if you are still in your 20s and have passed a standard physical examination within the past year, it should be safe to begin a progressive program of conditioning without further examination. But if you are over 30 years of age, you should have passed a complete physical examination that included an electrocardiogram within the past 90 days.
If you are over the age of 50, you still begin a physical fitness program, but it should be a medically supervised program. For the over 50 group, the doctor may advise that certain activities, such as jogging and competitive sports, be restricted or eliminated. Jogging can be damaging to the spine in persons beyond the age of 40 and can aggravate signs of arthritis. But walking, golf, swimming, bicycling, and exercising on a stationary cycle are alternate types of exercising for the past-middle-age set.