These six things are, food, air, exercise, sleep, cleansing, and posture. Just a few words about these.
The body needs food. It needs enough. It is hurt by too much. How much? Enough to keep it strong and fit, and no more.
It has become quite a commonplace that we all eat too much. Drunkards and topers are supposed to be gone, but eat-ards, and food topers, are still in abundant evidence.
Much of our strength is taken up in digesting food that tasted good, but adds nothing to our strength. Indeed it takes from strength and makes us less fit.
The sense of taste shouldn't decide what we eat. It has its important place. But, knowledge of food, the sense of taste, and keeping fit for one's work, these together should decide.
The body needs food of the sort that will keep it in the best fighting shape. One naturally believes that the Creator thought about our bodily needs in the provision He made.
For instance, wheat has in it numerous substances that our bodies need. If commercialism takes most of that nourishment out, so the whitened product can be stored without spoiling and loss of money, one naturally avoids such a product.
Using it is robbing his body of certain things it must have for health and vigour. And this same sort of thinking can be applied to all foods.
If the way the food is cooked washes much or most of it away, the finer, subtler elements, clearly the body isn't getting something it needs. A man may be partially starved, even with a loaded table, and a full stomach.
Proportion of food figures in. Adam in Eden reached up for his food. He had a fruit and nut diet. It was all sun-cooked.
After the Flood; Noah reached down as well as up. He added the things that grew under and close to the soil. And he added animal food.
That would suggest that the original diet was a fruit and nut diet. It would suggest that flesh food was only one of three sorts. That puts it in a minor place. This suggests pro portion, a balancing of one's food.
But all life has greatly changed. It is not normal. What is absolutely best (outside of morals), is very often not best under certain circumstances. And this change affects our bodies and their need.
If a Christian man, that is a really human man, finds that much less meat and more of the succulent and leafy vegetables and the juicy fruits, day by day, helps him to be less irritable, and in better control of his temper, he will be quick to make the change.
For the life is more than food, much more, his Christian life. And in that case he will find his body stronger too.
The thoughtful man comes to know that a radical change takes place in his body about the time an initial four gets into his age. The building stage is past. It required certain foods that go to building the body up to its maturity.
Now, as he passes that line of bodily change, food is taken simply to repair the waste of his day 's work.
More than that much adds excessive weight, which itself is a diseased condition, and leads to other diseased conditions. Weight over normal is a diseased and abnormal condition.
The great insurance companies are modifying their standard tables of age and weight. The standard of weights is being made less. Money sharpens their wits.
The thoughtful man comes to find that after a certain age a smaller quantity, the lessening or omitting of the heavier foods (meats, eggs, and the like), actually adds to his physical and mental vigour.
And as a Christian he does this, for it affects his Christian character, and his usefulness to his Master.
It is notable that the common diet of many nations runs so largely to the meat-potato-white-bread sort of food, and so little to the succulent and green leafy vegetables and juicy fruits.
Yet the dietary experts insist on the necessity of a balanced diet, and especially a lessening of the heavier foods and an increase of the lighter, in middle life and after.
The thoughtful Christian thinks into these things in a sober, sane, sensible way because he is a Christian. He adjusts his habits. So he keeps his body under control.
And so he is freer and stronger for his life task. And there is a fine, quaint homeliness in the way the Holy Spirit guides in just such things.
I recall an unusually saintly man of New York City, a great Christian leader, much blessed in service, a layman, of full bodily habit.
He had a serious illness. He taught healing, and he had experienced it. But now it didn't come. And he wondered why. There is a special bit of holding quiet in spirit, and waiting on God in prayer, to know if there was anything hindering.
And, he said, in my presence, that an answer came. It was in a single word. It was the name of a certain kind of meat of which I imagine he may have been rather fond.
He said that quiet inner voice uttered distinctly one word, "Pork." As he told the story he said, pointing to a Bible, "I was there, but I hadn't obeyed it." I am not discussing pork just now. The thing is both simpler and deeper. The Holy Spirit teaches regarding and homely things, if we want to know.
Man is an open-air being. Our abnormal modern life, called (or miscalled) civilization, has made him an indoors animal. One of the most prevalent disease plagues, tuberculosis of the lungs, is an indoors disease.
There is no question that the common indoors habit both weakens and shortens life. As things actually are we can't live a wholly outdoors life.
But the nearer we can come to it the nearer we are to the true full normal human. And no words are adequate to tell the physical blessedness of sleep in the open air. There is nothing that so rebuilds and cushions one's nerves.
All out-of-doors air is good air, night and day. God's air is always good. It's the shut-up, warmed-up, used-over-and-over-again, air that poisons us.
Habitual deep breathing, thorough ventilation of every space used, and particularly all the out-of-doors air it is possible to get, this is native to us. And the more we can actually stay out in the open the nearer we come to normal conditions.
And the body needs exercise. Most of us have to work with our bodily strength for a living, and that gives a certain amount of exercise. Though modern life is apt to make it partial and quite one-sided.
Watch your baby on the floor twisting and stretching strenuously, pulling and turning. That's its exercise. That helps it digest the food, and keep healthy and grow.
Walking is by far the best single exercise. No one thing is so good for health as an easy swinging walk, with easy shoes, and loose fitting clothing, and head up, and chest out, and arms swinging.
One can walk away any weakness or disease. The exceptions are few. Graduated walking, beginning with little and increasing gradually, until several miles are easily done, will work wonders simply in getting and keeping in bodily vigour. And the mental stimulus and spirit refreshing keep pace.
And so, very soberly, one says that the true Christian walks for health, for Jesus' sake. For so he is more usable. He can be of better service to his fellows. And he finds the zest, the sheer zest, of being alive.
If the editor of a religious paper finds that an hour's easy swinging walk to his desk or away from it, clears his brain, and steadies his nerves, and sharpens his sentences. and makes clearer and simpler his pen-preaching and teaching, if so, he'll never miss that walk.
He is a better editor, a better religious teacher. Men and women are helped more. Christ has a fuller use of him. He could now write a helpful article on walking as a means of grace.
But exercise should be on the baby system. It should include everything from toes to hair, and out to finger-tips.
Ten minutes given, morning and night, with loose garments, in the open air or at an open window, to a simple series of stretching exercises, regardless of age, is a necessity for vigorous health.
The advertising columns are full of suggestion. There are plenty of books to run through. One can make up his own simple series of movements.
The point to be kept in mind is that the body is stretched, thoroughly stretched from head to foot. Watch the baby. He is a good teacher of how to do it. Or the cat after a nap.
The item of sleep gets in without any effort. Some people ought to wake up. But some ought to sleep more. Sometimes sleep is a confession of faith, when it 's sleep time and your body needs it, but anxiety keeps you awake, or your nerves.
The thoughtful Christian thinks about his sleep until a good sleep-habit is fixed. These nerve-racking days one must sleep.
And the earlier in the night it is started the better. Sleep before midnight is beauty sleep, because it is strength sleep.
One plans for enough, sometimes foregoing something else. He thinks about the details that help sound, deep, refreshing sleep. Sleep renews the strength while food repairs waste.
If the mother finds that a half-hour's lying down in a quiet room in daytime, whether sleep comes or not, makes her more patient and gentle with the children, and with better self-control in the home, she will prayerfully plan for it.
So she is a truer Christian mother, and shapes better the children's character, present and future. She becomes more serviceable to her Master.
And cleansing figures in so much bigger than any of us takes in. It is of two sorts, inner cleansing and outer. There are people who bathe fastidiously who would be shocked at their filthy condition inside.
Health, it is sometimes said, is dependent on three things, food, assimilation, elimination. That is, enough of the right sort of food, the ability to digest and absorb it into the body, and the prompt full throwing out of all the waste.
It is surprising how much waste there is to be thrown out. Nature provides two ways for its removal, through the skin and through certain inner organs.
So many diseases are dirt diseases. Often the disease that comes is merely nature trying to get rid of this accumulation of filth.
A healthful body takes care of its own waste products. Careful, prayerful obedience to the laws of the body makes a healthful body.
Careless indifference is pretty apt to make the body very dirty, inside. Bathing, and especially preserving the bodily rhythm, are not beneath the attention of the thoughtful Christian.
And posture figures in much bigger than one suspects. We Americans are great sinners in the matter of posture. Man is the one upright animal of all creation. But that fact is slurred over this side of the salt water.
Our American habit of slumping down in the chair, sitting on the small of the back, drooping the shoulders and the like, is a serious thing.
The vital organs are crowded for space. The whole inner machinery is badly disturbed. The habit of upright posture, standing and sitting and walking, affects one's health enormously.
But proper posture is impossible without easy-fitting low-heeled shoes. Nothing is more injurious to the whole inner organism than these strange high heels.