Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/88

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84
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
THE HEALTH INSTINCT
By Dr. JAMES FREDERICK ROGERS
NEW HAVEN NORMAL SCHOOL OF GYMNASTICS

PEOPLE do not take the matter of health seriously." So wrote Professor Bain not over thirty years ago, but in the intervening time how things have changed! If he were writing on the same theme to-day, he would probably say that we take the matter of health too seriously, or, at any rate, that some of us are on the verge of so doing. We have heard of the bicycle face and the automobile countenance, and it would not be surprising if some one should soon describe for us the health-seeker's visage. It may not as yet have established itself as an unmistakable type, but one can already trace signs in a certain worn and anxious expression of countenance suggestive of the approach of starvation, or the fearsomeness of an unseen foe.

In days of old, men sallied boldly forth, fearing naught save the fires of future punishment, and these were likely to be forgotten in the business of the hour. They had too much to do, and too little to eat, to be over-anxious in regard to diet or exercise. But a knight in full armor, or a dozen of them, was as nothing to brave beside the hidden bacterial hosts which now make a constant terror by night and day; while the poison cup was rare and harmless in comparison with "auto-intoxications" and the ravages of "uric acid" with which the dweller in twentieth century time is threatened in the viands he must face each day.

Between the periods of these trying encounters with hidden foes which strike beneath the belt, the seeker after health examines with anxious eye the latest newspapers and magazines for paragraphs and articles which may serve as guides to his sad progress between the ever threatening Scylla of overeating and the Charybdis of under eating; of exercising too much and of exercising too little. Of leading along these lines he finds no lack, but the teachers are so many and their dogmas so diverse, and the results of following their advice often so disappointing, that the health-seeker's troubles only thicken. Even those whose consciousness has given them no trouble along lines of health are not wholly exempt from the fear, or fear of the fear; for, in many households where the health idea has become rampant, the guest at the board is assailed with advice as to the wholesomeness of this, the hygienic qualities of that, and the proteid content of the other dish, until his own stomach becomes alarmed and cries out even for the flesh