Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Big Chest Book - Chapter Eight

John Grimek

Strengthening The Heart

Anything that affects the heart-beat will have a similar effect on the respiration. And in this connection we also must remember that anything which affects the breathing also affects the heart as these two organs are partners from the day of your birth until the day of your death. Their operation synchronizes perfectly. When you make demands upon the outer muscles through any form of physical endeavor, particularly of a vigorous nature, there is immediately more carbon dioxide and a greater need for oxygen. The lungs start to fill this demand through increased respiration and the heart keeps pace to make the change which is its work – impregnating the blood with more oxygen and extracting the carbon dioxide, then transporting it through the blood to the place where it is needed.

All authorities agree that the heart is a muscle, and it is a well-known fact that muscles strengthen and improve in their action with use. The body has the faculty to repair itself under almost any circumstances; this is well proven in the case of animals who normally have no doctor – particularly not in the wild state; yet they recover from serious injuries and overcome the ills which occasionally attack them. Isn’t it logical from this brief description to believe that regular exercise with a progressive increasing of the action of the heart and lungs, accompanied by a strengthening of all the muscles inside and out, will also strengthen the muscle which is our heart and improve its action? There is a great deal of proof that hearts have been enlarged and strengthened through regular exercise that irregularities of construction and operation have been overcome.

Be sure to consult your physician first before launching upon a physical training program, if you have some slight heart difficulty of suspect that you have. The medical authorities report that the heart being only a muscular pump cannot be injured through exercise, but it is reasonable to believe that long-drawn out or sudden effort, such as in sprinting or the playing of games like football, would not be advantageous for a youth with a weak heart. Gradually stimulating the action of the heart and other organs, through gentle, progressive exercise, has a beneficial effect.

Increased exertion through progressive physical exercise which benefits the lungs also benefits and strengthens the heart. We have heard considerable about enlarged hearts and athletic heart; the medical authorities agree that there is no such thing as “athletic heart.” There are enlarged hearts, just as there are enlarged biceps or enlarged chests, but larger hearts like larger biceps are stronger and more capable. Nearly one-half of the citizens of this country sever their connections with life through the failure of their hearts. The mortality as a result of heart failure has steadily increased with the years – increased equally as fast as deaths through other diseases have been reduced. Isn’t it reasonable to believe that it has come about through the sedentary, indolent lives most moderns live? The hearts of our pioneer ancestors, hard-working men of generations ago, w ere stronger and more durable than the hearts of the present. Regular exercise will strengthen hearts and should be a source of longer life.

If the lungs are strong the heart will work more steadily; and if the heart is strong the lungs will operate with greater force and evenness. There are many kinds of weak hearts; some are actually defective. The heart may have been weak from birth, although a great many of these so-called weak hearts overcome their own condition. At the age of three I had a severe attack of typhoid fever. Like many children who suffer from such an early disease, my life was despaired of. I recovered although I am told the doctor had said I would not live until morning. The report was that I had a weak heart. But a little more than a year later I made it a habit of surpassing the other youngsters in running around a double tennis court across the street from my home. All during earliest childhood I enjoyed what we called “fag” races – might be more accurately termed fatigue races – the object of the race being to see who could run the longest. Another favorite game was “Buffalo.” Our conception of a buffalo herd meant that they went on and on, up hill, down hill, over streams, even over precipices, overcoming all that was before them. We ran all day with our vigorous games and I built such a form of endurance that it was easy enough for me to come home first in a ten-mile modified marathon race for boys under sixteen when I was just ten. Marathons were very popular at that stage of my life and I ran several twenty-six-mile marathons and trained for them regularly. I believe that this regular exercise – chiefly cross-country running – strengthened my heart. Certainly it didn’t hurt it, for at the age of forty, when I was examined for a large insurance policy, the examining physician constantly reiterated that he could not understand how a man as large as I, who had been as active and athletic as I, could have such perfect heart action. The blood pressure was right “on the nose” as he phrased it. Yet through my athletic career I had exerted myself to the limit so many times in races that I finished winner, but collapsed at the finish scores of times. I repeat, I believe this great exertion strengthened my heart. Certainly it didn’t weaken it. Now modern physicians are convinced that regular exercise strengthens the heart as it does all muscles and other organs of the body.

Hearts should be examined by competent physicians and if the report is unfavorable, certainly that man should not run in a marathon race, row in a four-mile race, or take part in a football game, a long and intensive wrestling match or some similar great physical endeavor. But we must remember that many hearts are weak simply because their owners are weak all over. Their muscles are flabby and covered with fat and it’s to be expected that all organs and glands are in the same weakened, sluggish, inefficient condition. If you decide to launch upon a course of physical training and you find that you become greatly fatigued when you walk a half mile, that you pant for breath, and your heart labors when you climb a steep hill, that you quickly become fatigued and breathless when you exercise for a time, you can be sure that your heart and other internal organs are just as weak as the muscles. You can’t see the operation of the heart and other organs, but their condition definitely manifests itself through the weakness and inefficiency of muscles and fatigue which comes so easily.

A fat man with weak and flaccid muscles may receive the report that he has a weak heart. This is natural, for he is weak all over and with his increased weight he has added many miles of additional capillaries and veins and provided so much more work for the heart to perform. That’s the main reason why overweight men are considered to be poor insurance risks. These insurance companies do not take into consideration whether the overweight man has worked enough or exercised sufficiently to have built a strong heart, capable of taking care of a bit of overweight, or whether he is just flabby and soft, and has a heart of similar type. This latter condition is the really dangerous one.

A fat man with a weak muscular heart can easily overtax his weak muscles and it is to be expected that overwork would not be beneficial for his heart, to say the least. But since there is no organic trouble, this man who is out of condition and weak inside and out can by progressive exercise strengthen his heart in conjunction with the lungs just as he can strengthen his back, his arms or his legs through regular and progressive exercise. If such a man will only aspire to attain superhealth, great strength and superb development, there is nothing which will prevent him from attaining that much-to-be-desired physical condition except his own slothfulness or lack of persistence.

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