Cornhill Magazine,  9 (1864), 219–31.

Training in Relation to Health

[George H Lewes]




Health, Ageing, Education, Physiology, Neurology, Nutrition, Organicism, Amateurism, Heterodoxy, Narcotics, Temperance, Anatomy, Physiological Chemistry, Publishing

Publications cited:

Sinclair 1807 , A S 1862

    Acknowledges that 'Few of us, after thirty, can boast of robust health' and that 'Whoso speaks on Health is sure of a large audience', although the current plethora of advice concerning such matters is largely vitiated by its lack of a 'rational basis' and 'its want of adaptation to the existing social arrangements' (219). Exercise, for example, must be 'understood in its physiological relations before it can be safely prescribed', and once 'Enlightened by physiology' we learn that inflexible injunctions to undertake arduous exercises after the labours of the working day 'may be very injurious' (219–20). Complains that the physical training regimes of athletes such as rowers and prize-fighters suffer from 'the utter want of a scientific basis' and are usually 'based on no intelligible principles'. They can therefore offer little guidance to improving the health of 'the general public' (220). In fact, such training, 'when unenlightened by Physiology', can be a 'most dangerous and delusive guide', and 'sacrifices a man to muscle, not less than the prize pig is sacrificed to fat' (221). This is seen most clearly in the case of the American pugilist John C Heenan, whose 'forcing system' of training 'his powerful frame [...] may be compared with the cramming system applied to the mind' in its unhealthy over-stimulation of one particular function of the body (222). Readers are advised to eschew the 'absurdities [...] unworthy of notice' promoted by such training systems (224), and instead to 'remember that in exercise, as in diet, the grand rule is Moderation' (229). Sensible advice on the 'little understood' question of food and diet is given by the now-slender William Banting 'preaching from the text of his own experience' in a 'pamphlet which he distributes gratuitously, and which he might be induced perhaps to publish' (230–31). Comments that 'Without here opening the wide question of Teetotalism we may briefly state our opinion that the great objection against wine is its pleasantness, which is apt to lure us into drinking more than is needful'. The 'physician must decide' how much can be imbibed without impairing health. (225)

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