THE VELOCIPEDE FROM A MEDICAL STAND-POINT
The vast majority of people are almost wholly responsible for their physical condition. Bodily strength and sound health, like mental accomplishments, are the results of cultivation; and the greater part of mankind can as easily obtain them, as they can acquire a knowledge of Mathematics in school or college. Let any one place, side by side, the closely confined student or clerk and the man who has paid special attention to his physical culture. Compare the pale or sallow face, the flat chest, the narrow, stooping shoulders of the former, with the development of the latter, whose vigorous frame defies disease, whose strength gives a consciousness of power that makes him fearless of danger and who can exult in that greatest earthly possession, exuberant health. These two classes of men will be the fathers of the next generation. The great disparity between them can be obviated by physical training on the part of the former. If not, then, merely as a means of happiness to ourselves, is it not a duty we owe to succeeding generations, that we cultivate these means of raising man to the summit of his nature, physically as well as mentally? The condition of civilization (if one avoids its vices), does not weaken bodily vigour, provided the locomotive system is kept in thorough activity. The masses should not only have the necessary amount of exercise in the open air, but a perfect exercise of every muscle in the body. A neglect of the powers with which our creator has endowed us, is punished by their withdrawal. Allow the intellect to remain idle and it will become sluggish. All parts of the human organism not sufficiently worked, are liable to degenerate; the nerve force which should guide and govern is allowed to sleep; the muscles become inelastic fibre of but little vitality. Tie up an arm for months and it withers away. Let the muscles of our young men and delicate young ladies remain idle; they degenerate and atrophy. “Everything that prolongs human life, amelio- rates human suffering, elevates and develops the human frame, is an element of progress; an element that all true men admire and cherish.” The velocipede is one of the finest inventions of the nineteenth century. It is a physiologically constructed machine; is an invaluable means of promoting health and bids fair to emancipate our youth from the common muscular lethargy and debility. Velocipeding is superior to skating, horseback riding, base-ball and rowing. While skating is good for the legs, horseback riding for the chest, base-ball and rowing for the legs and arms, the benefit derived from exercise on the velocipede is not local. It gives a natural exercise and general development to every muscle of the body. The arms are the first to feel the effect of the exercise, for the pressure of the feet upon the stirrups must be met by a corresponding pressure of the hands on the tiller, necessary to prevent the front wheel from turning. This pressure of the tiller against the hands puts the rider in an upright position, with elbows well back and hands well extended, straightens the stooping shoulders, facilitates respiration, expands the lungs and develops the chest. No position can be maintained upon the velocipede, inconsistent with ease and elegance of motion, or incompatible with the laws of health. Some physicians of prominence have pronounced against the velocipede and one has issued a pronunciamento advising young men to shun it, but the majority of the profession give it their hearty and cordial support. Medical men are among its most eager votaries. One of the best physicians in our country, who makes diseases of the lungs a specialty, rides the bicycle two hours a day and prescribes it for his patients. He considers it a great preventive of that scourge of our climate, consumption; and a grand aid to the development and improvement of the human body. Many busy men of the profession in New York, Boston and other large cities, either have their own machines, or ride daily in the schools and rinks. They regard this preparation of Iron (the velocipede), as better than any in their Materia Medica.
The velocipede: its history, varieties, and practice, J. T. Goddard (1869)