Mens sana in corpore sano (a sound mind in a sound body)
“A SOUND MIND in a sound body” was the cherished motto of the citizens of Rome, and as long as they lived by it, Rome ruled the world. The decline of the Roman Empire began when its citizens abandoned participating in sports and spent their afternoons crowded into the bleachers of the Coliseum watching the Lions play the Christians.
In 1860 a group of German-born humanitarians founded Lankenau Hospital in Pennsylvania. From its inception it was a leader in man’s eons-old war against disease. Kaare Rodahl was their Research Director from 1957-1965. He was a Norwegian physician and physiologist, a research fellow in Arctic physiology and medicine in the US and a professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences.
While at Lankenau, in 1958, he wrote a scholarly paper entitled Physical Fitness for the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.
- AGE: “In some primitive cultures chronologic age is of little or no consequence. An old primitive Eskimo does not know how old he is. They kept no records of their births nor did they celebrate birthdays.” “Because of their wisdom and knowledge of the ice, the tundra and the habits of the game animals, they are respected by the young.”
- CULTURE: “The combination of physical fitness and intellectual maturity was a must and the Greeks were trained with this aim in view from early childhood.” “In the primitive Eskimo culture of today the rule of the survival of the fittest still holds. Indeed, in Arctic survival, physical fitness is the factor, which in the final analysis determines life or death, because during prolonged periods of exposure to extreme cold we are unable with our present means to protect an inactive man so as to maintain thermal balance. He has to rely on physical exercise to increase his heat production. Consequently he who has the ability to maintain high levels of physical exercise longest has the greatest chance of survival.”
In light of the trend in our own culture and environment shouldn’t we be asking…What does physical fitness mean to man? To me? What Dr. Rodahl wrote in 1958 might have been news then but it is not news now. However it bears repeating.
- PHYSICAL FITNESS ~ THE NEED: “…it is well established that physical conditioning increases the muscle mass, causes increased vascularization of muscle tissue, and increases the overall metabolically active mass. The total blood flow is increased by the greater cardiac output. There is increased power, efficiency and endurance of the skeletal muscles and increased efficiency of lung ventilation. This means that the usual types of daily activity can be carried out with less fatigue.” “When, in addition, fitness increases endurance, it becomes a vitally important factor in case of a national emergency.” “…vigorous physical activity tends to eliminate overweight and obesity with all their medical complications.”
“It has been repeatedly observed that a physically fit person can get along better without sleep than an unfit person.” “In light of the modern concept of global wars, it is apparent that our survival as a nation will depend greatly upon our capability for industrial survival, i.e. the ability of large proportions of the population to survive and to carry on vital functions in the face of food and water shortage and under strenuous physical conditions. From this viewpoint alone we can hardly afford to overlook the apparent need for high standards of physical fitness for all age groups of the population.”
Thank you to Kaare Rodahl, a man ahead of his time.
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