THE gymnasium is deservedly popular. We have due respect for its importance in physical training, all due honor for the conquests in the field or on the water, in which it has had so large a share. But, as far as the majority of students is concerned, we claim that it has, or ought to have, a powerful rival in the simple exercise which is the subject of this article. For the professional gymnast, the athlete who aspires to honor with the bat or the oar, the training of the gymnasium is wellnigh indispensable. But for the scholar, whose thoughts are turned in another direction, a different but no less manly and (to him) effective exercise is as well adapted. He comes to college for the sole purpose of mental culture, feeling that health, not muscle, is the first means to this end. With Tully he sets a higher estimate on the intellect of a Pythagoras than on the mere brute strength of a Milo of Croton. As far as exercise conduces to health, he takes it, since health is an important element of success in his chosen vocation. Beyond this he cannot go without loss.
This being the case, he will find that walking offers nearly all to be desired. Not the aimless saunter, but the brisk energetic pace of the man who is in earnest in business or pleasure. It was thus that Dickens walked and performed, for half a century, the most laborious literary work. Thus Tyndall has become a famous mountain-climber, and in his admirable volumes gives us the result of toilsome hours in the laboratory along with the enlivening stories of his Alpine experience.
It is a mistake to suppose that walking is a partial exercise, or that it brings into play the muscles of the lower limbs to the exclusion of others. On the contrary, the chest is one of the parts most benefited, and by the quickly succeeding contractions and expansions necessary to sustain a rapid gait, the lungs are constantly receiving fresh invoices of purer air than any indoor exercise will admit of. We know of a case where a young man who had lost his voice so as to be unable to speak above a whisper entirely regained it by a walk to Boston from a town in the western part of the State, taking a week for the journey. The bracing oxygen of a crisp morning in winter, or the balmy air of the better days of spring, is a strong argument in favor of walking even in preference to exercise within the walls of a gymnasium, where ventilation, especially in cold weather, is difficult. In fact, exercise within doors has always to contend with a disadvantage, and they make a strong point against dancing who urge that it is usually indulged in under the unfavorable circumstances of close, heated rooms and unseasonable hours.
To conclude, in what we have said it has not been intended to slight the claims of the gymnasium, but simply to say a word for another kind of exercise, which is a favorite with many, but by others is looked on as of little importance.
B. H. C.