Necessity for Exercise

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Exercise is necessary at all periods of life and particularly during childhood and early adulthood. It is essential to keep up good health, vim, vigour and vitality. It preserves the healthy tone of the body. Exercise bestows a general efficiency of body and mind, with a better social spirit and cooperation with your fellows. You learn to control the weak side of your nature and give fuller freedom to the best spirit that is in you. It checks overgrowth and develops the weak person. It quickly restores convalescents to better health. During growth it corrects deformities. It removes debility and obesity.

The many benefits

Exercise is essential for the different organs of the body to function easily and effectively. It is necessary to promote the formation and repair of tissues, and excite the demand for oxygen needed for utilization of food. Without exercise there will be no health. The whole system will refuse to function. The stomach will refuse to digest food properly and the intestines will decline to function efficiently. The blood will be loaded with poisonous matter.

The heart cannot work efficiently without definite exercise. If you do exercise regularly it will drive the blood more vigorously. The lungs will take in the air with deep breaths. The chest will expand. More waste and used air will be driven out. When the action of the heart is improved by exercise, local congestions vanish. The blood is equally distributed and the circulation of blood in the lungs is improved. The amount of oxygen inhaled and of carbon dioxide exhaled is greatly increased. It supplies more oxygen. The increased output demands increased supply of food and fresh air. It is best to take exercise in the open air because you get more oxygen to purify the blood.

Exercise gives a healthy glow all over the body. Because it gives a more rapid supply of blood, the kidneys, the lungs and the skin, which remove the waste material, are stimulated. They do the function of cleansing more energetically and more efficiently. Muscular exercise has a beneficial effect on the body as a whole. It removes constipation and produces a regular action of the bowels. It leads to better mental efficiency and better performance of mental work. It promotes the action of the skin. There is increased perspiration. It reduces and regulates the temperature. After exercising, the body should be covered and protected from undue loss of heat.

All the movements of the body are done by muscles. Exercise increases the nutrition of the muscles. This contributes to their growth and energy. If you have well developed muscles you can turn out more efficient work. If you do not exercise the muscles will go to waste. You will be lazy and weak. You will have no power of endurance. If any organ or part of the body is not used it gradually becomes smaller and less liable to work. For instance, if a broken limb is fixed with splints, the limb will be found to be much smaller than the other when the splints are removed at the end of two or three weeks, because the muscles have wasted through lack of use. But if the muscles are much used, they increase in size. A gymnast, an athlete and a labourer in the field have strong well-developed muscles in the arms and chest. They have a wonderful and beautiful physique. However, strength and size are not always the same. Either a thin wiry or a heavy built person may be strong.

Some guidelines

You should have a well-built body without adiposity. Fat hinders work by its extra weight, by giving rise to additional heat during work and by greater fatigue due to the accumulation of waste. Reduce the fat through regular and systematic exercise.

Exercise should be regulated and adjusted to the needs and capacity of the body. Violent exercise should be avoided. It is better to have recourse to graduated exercise.

Exercise should be systematic. Every muscle of the body should share in the exercise. Be regular in your exercise. Do not fatigue yourself or go beyond your capacity. If there is fatigue you have gone beyond your capacity. Reduce the number of exercises and the period of exercise. There should be perfect exhilaration of spirit after exercise. Infrequent, severe exercise is not beneficial. It may do more harm than good. The following rules for exercise should be observed:

  • Exercise should be taken in the open air whenever possible.
  • It should be repeated daily or regularly about the same hour. It should never be taken just after or just before meals.
  • The amount of exercise should be regulated according to the age, physical development or capacity of the individual.
  • Exercise should be regular and systematic.
  • Every part of the body should partake in the exercise.
  • Chills should be avoided after exercise.
  • After exercise the body should be washed or sponged.