Were they on to something?
Every so often, one meets a woman “lovely in her bones”; a woman, that is, who maintains well past her first youth a figure flexible and full of grace, emanating vitality and poise; her limbs and torso are lithe as a girl’s. What is her secret? One might suspect tennis weekends, and strenuous bouts of routine exercises between.
But the source of her splendid fitness, you will discover, lies in the mysterious power of a steadfast mental attitude. An innate respect for the clever and beautiful body nature bequeathed her, and an abiding conviction that it’s up to her to keep it at perfect pitch, animate her motions. She is, at almost every moment of the day, a living exercise.
This subliminal approach to a lovely physique is open to any woman who cares to make it her own. It can accomplish more, with less work, than all those desperate resolutions to exercise like sixty twice a day. It demands no special hours of the day be set aside, no difficult callisthenic techniques be mastered. You are merely requires to think. And this thinking should lead to an inner directive:
Don’t make a move that is not an exercise!
Each one of us, every day, performs hundreds of motions that are inherent opportunities
to gain in limberness, firmness and grace, to flatten bumps and bulges. Never let one knock at your door unanswered. Never save steps, when all are in the right direction.
Never ride an elevator when a flight of stairs offers you a therapeutic climb. Welcome every chance to stoop over—holding the stomach muscles drawn in, and swinging down to the floor from the groin, knees straight.
When you turn to look at something, turn your head with purpose and grace, and hold it high. When you walk, walk tall, your rib cage lifted up away from your hipbones, your waist an elongated pivot, and swing your legs freely from the hip joints.
When you sit down, sit down with forethought, slinging the hips and buttocks under, like a fencer, and then bending springily into the knees to bring the thigh muscles into the play. When you reach for anything, make it count, letting the motion come straight from the solar plexus and extend through the shoulder and arm out to the tips of your out-stretching fingers.
All these are practically built-in calisthenics. To supplement them, seize on any hiatus that opens up throughout the day to practice a little instant exercising.
Right now, for instance, as you’re reading:
Press the whole length of your spine against the chair and stretch up tall. Raise your chest muscles by lifting your upper arms—alternatively tensing and relaxing. Clench and release your fingers and toes, to increase their flexibility and shapeliness and, at the same time, stir up your circulation. Relax, now, and breathe deeply four or five times. Whenever you’re reading, in fact, or sitting at your desk over bills, take an odd moment to repeat this routine. It will heighten your physical tone, and refresh you.
In bed in the morning:
Concentrate on stretching every muscle. Then raise your knees to your chest and straighten and strengthen the spine by pressing it into the bed. Roll over on your side, knees still flexed—swing yourself up and out of bed.
Grip the bureau and sit into a deep knee bend. Holding sides of door jambs, lean into the doorway, pressing buttocks into space. Lean into the corner of the room, holding hands on walls at the sides; push bosom into the corner—and release. (Do each exercise eight times.)
Make faces in the mirror: roll your eyes, wiggle your forehead, waggle your ears’ drop your head all the way back and push your chin out as far as you can.
At the breakfast table:
Think about flattening the abdomen. Pull the muscles taut, away from the table, then release. Contract and relax eight times, with raised rib cage.
On your way out:
Walk briskly. Remember to swing legs from your hips. Roll your feet as you walk, from the heel to the side, and then from the ball of the foot to toes. Keep buttocks firm, ribs lifted and pelvis slightly forward.
Waiting (for a cab, at the doctor’s office etc.):
Pull your arches up from the floor. Do the entire toe and finger movements. Mold and knead the palms of your hands.
In the car or cab:
Press your spine back against the seat and then arch your lower back. Think of developing grace and agility. Rock back and forward, as you get up and out, turn sideways and swing your knees out the door, pressing your buttocks into your thighs.
At your desk:
No one will notice leg and knee exercises. Swing and rotate. Kick legs forward, from knees. Rotate thighs in hip joints, so that they turn outside. When your phone rings, take a deep breath, and exhale. Lift the receiver with a flick of the wrist. Try it with your left hand as well as your right.