Physical training is not so much muscle making as muscle training. It is not only health producing, but habit forming; not only tissue building, but also brain organizing.
Dr. Hartwell has said, "the main field of education is the nervous system, and the principles of all forms of education into which physical training enters as a factor are based upon the power of the nervous system to receive impressions, and register them or their effects; in other words, upon its ability to memorize the part it has played in acquired movements, and on occasion to revive and repeat such movements".
There are three fundamental educational propositions with reference to physical training which I desire to submit in this short article.
Mind and Movement grow together. The one operates upon the other. Without movement there is no mind. Movement is an index of mentality. Tests of muscle precision are used as a means of determining mental ability. The scale of intelligence in animals I rises in direct relation to the number of possible muscle | co-ordinations. When a new movement is made, "it stimulates the motor brain cells to throw out processes; these processes relate the cells to their neighbors, the larger the variety of movements, the greater the mterrelation of brain cells. This provides a wider range of activity. Each new act adds a new piece of furniture to the mental household." Thus motor training places at the disposal of the individual a wider range of mental activity. This motor training also stores away energy which can be drawn upon when needed, and makes for intellectual endurance. Other things being equal, the individual who has had motor training will last longer in the conflict where intellectual endurance is required.
Some muscles have a higher educational value than others. The larger muscle groups belong in what might be termed the lower brain levels; to this class belong the muscles of the back, abdomen and thighs.
The smaller muscle groups belong to the higher brain levels and make more demands upon the will, the attention and the judgment. To this class belong the movements of the fingers, the elbow joint and the more skilled movements. The effect of exercising the larger muscles is more hygienic, of the smaller more educational.
The development of the nervous system in relation to the muscles is from fundamental to accessory.
Thus some muscles ripen in their nerve adjustments before others and consequently must be developed first.
Injudicious training may reverse this law with grave results to the nervous system. For illustration, it is not wise to have a child attempt to play the piano at too early an age, because piano playing requires the use of the finer muscle adjustments which ripen later. To do this would cause nervousness, irritability, and if pushed too far, hysteria. If we study the play life of children, we notice that they play certain kinds of games at certain periods in their development. Simple games at first involving simple movements of the large muscles, and later more complex games involving finer muscle movements and greater precision of movement. The kind of games a child plays may be an index to its degree of mentality, and conversely games advisedly planned may prove stimulating to mentality and self-control.
Scientific physical training is based upon these fundamental principles, and thus proves a great and essential factor in the intellectual development of the individual.