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Boy Scouts of California Handbook

Scouts-Old-School-Fitness “Two things greatly affect the conditions under which a boy lives in these days. One is that he lives in-doors for the greater part of the time, and the other is that he must attend school, which is pretty largely a matter of sitting still.”

It has been 105 years since Dr. George J. Fisher penned that introduction to the “Health and Endurance” chapter of the BSA’s 1911 Handbook for Boys, but much of his advice is just as valid for Scouts and adult volunteers today. And it might be even more critical as our nation faces the crises of obesity, diabetes and sedentary behavior.

Let’s compare the good doctor’s old-school advice for keeping us physically strong and mentally awake to today’s cutting-edge exercise and medical science.

1911: “Each day should have its out-door exercises.”

2016: A study at the University of California, San Diego found that adults who exercise outside complete about 30 minutes more exercise each week than people who exercise indoors. Dozens of other studies show that people who exercise in natural environments score higher on psychological tests of vitality, enthusiasm and self-esteem, and lower on tension, depression and fatigue.

1911: “Walking is a splendid form of exercise.”

2016: In a study that analyzed 33, 000 runners and 15, 000 walkers, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., determined that brisk walking can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and other health risks as much as running.

1911: “A boy ought to have at least two hours of sport daily … and at least two hour-long periods each week in a gym for body building.”

2016: Realistically, kids don’t have that kind of free time for exercise. But that’s OK, because hours aren’t necessary for good health. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends vigorous aerobic exercise for 25 minutes at least three times a week or moderately intense exercise for 30 minutes at least five days a week. Muscle-strengthening exercise, as Fisher notes, is important, too. After age 30, adults begin to lose muscle mass by 1 to 2 percent per year and often replace it with fat. The AHA recommends moderate to intense strength training at least two days a week.

1911: “Exercises demanding a sustained support of the body with the arms are not helpful, but may be harmful.”

2016: That’s not sound advice, says exercise scientist Ellington Darden, Ph.D., author of The Body Fat Breakthrough. “We know that growing and strengthening a muscle requires stressing that muscle with resistance exercise.” In fact, the classic pushup, which requires supporting the entire bodyweight with your arms, is the ultimate barometer of fitness, said the late fitness guru Jack LaLanne. It engages the muscles of the arms, chest, abdomen, back, hips and legs.

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