The ideal toward which every community is working is the establishment, as an integral part of it, of a local fitness plant. This includes first, playgrounds laid out for all recreational sports, in their season. The ideal playground system will have enough room in walks and landscape-gardening for park development—sufficient to meet the community’s maximum needs.
Community physical-fitness centers are growing up in which an adjacent lake or river provides facilities for rowing, canoeing, and recreational enjoyment through breathing the fresh air, while taking regular physical, conditioning exercises.
Such an ideal community plant has proven by no means a vision incapable of realization. To-day men and women realize painfully the need for one in their home community and are prevented from the fulfilment of their dream by only two obstacles—lack of funds and adequate organization of the plan.
This work and these centers offer the greatest possibilities in the Americanization scheme, perfection of which is a paramount duty for this country.
[Illustration: Setting-up work of A company of one hundred]
[Illustration: Doctor Anderson leading A group in the Yale gymnasium]
Not only do such plants transpose the astonishingly large percentage of the physically unfit of our foreign and domestic population and reclaim those whose physical imperfections have either become evident through the draft, or which are not known, but it affords the surest possible means of interesting this large element of our population in American institutions, of attracting them to the soundest and most beautiful features of American life, and of convincing them of their comradeship in the strength and sinew of American manhood; in short, of building the foundations of democracy on a base as stable as the eternal granite hills.
The Senior Service program starts with setting-up exercises which open the chest, gently stimulate the heart, and start the blood coursing through the system, and follows with progressive walking, a little hill-climbing, and, later in the development, with some weight-carrying exercises. The system renews the resistive force of the body, tones up the muscles, opens the chest cavity so that the heart and lungs have more room and the breath is deeper and better, gives general exercise to the various muscles which have become more or less atrophied from disuse, and brings about a marked improvement in the mental outlook and in the animal spirits.
The system is a combination of setting-up exercises with outdoor work, all carefully and precisely laid out after twenty years of experience in conditioning men. It should be followed absolutely, not partially or occasionally. It is far from severe. Its strength lies in the cumulative effect rather than in any special effort at any one time.