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Why Singing Is an Excellent Exercise

By Dr. Leonard K. Hirshberg

A person’s physical virtues often form magic of his song. Singing is music married to a man’s muscles. The melodious sounds which issue from the throat, require as much muscular exertion as you might apply to pump an organ.

Singing is a mosaic of stimulant and physical training. Every instant that you lift up your voice in song, there occur heaves and contractions in the muscle of the chest, the abdomen, the throat, the cheeks, and even inside the abdomen and thorax.

These muscles, as well as the liver, stomach, spleen and diaphragm, all move in perfect phalona (sic?) to mood of song. Othello says Desdemona could sing the savageness out of a bear. Scientific experiments show the vibrations of vocal music soothe both the singer and the listener, by the athletic movements stirred up in the fibers and elastic elements of the muscles.

Recently, one of the Dr. Reske’s sang beautiful song so brilliantly that the French Chasseurs, who heard him forgot their tired, worn-out muscles, and sprang so vigorously into action that they conquered several lines of trenches along a large front.

The reason children and young men and women are given so much to song has been shown by psychological experiments to be traceable to the need of exercise.

So-called “animal-spirits” are shown by singing. Lazy people and those whose muscles are unacquainted with work neither sing much or enjoy singing.

Boys and girls with an exuberance of physical strength, with too narrow an outlet for it, will trill forth a babble of sweet nothings from the very excess of their pent-up energy.

Even in church, with almost everybody snoozing away under the droning stupidity of an over-worked sermon, the songs of the choir awakens the congregation to new life and energy. In churches where all may join in the singing, there is enough exercise to interest even the fat, the over-fed, and those who forget to do gymnastics all the rest of the week.

Shelley, in the ecstasy of song, expresses the value of music as a satisfying exercise in these lines:

I pant for the music which is divine;
    My heart in its thirst is a dying flower;
Pour forth the sound like enchanted wine,
    Loosen the notes in a silver shower;
Like a herbless plain for the gentle rain
    I gasp, I faint till they wake again.

The very act of breathing is one of life’s automatic exercises. No one can live and not breathe or vice-versa. Moreover, no one can breathe without exercising. Since the basis of all singing is breathing, it follows that vocal efforts of the rhythmical, methodical kind are a desirable kind of gymnasium work.

Even where tuberculosis and some kinds of heart disease exist the sufferer must needs exercise. Medical research shows that the absence of all exercise, except where fever is present, is by no means desirable.

On the other hand, unless some gentle sort of muscular exertion is systematically carried out, the tissues of the victim becomes soft, flabby, and not adapted to strain and tension.

Singing is thus a most praiseworthy kind of calisthenics. It takes the place of violent athletics and strenuous physical culture. It is harmless, always available, and can be made to serve the purpose at any proper time and place.

The very breathing exercises, which a vocal teacher institutes, go a great way in training the muscles of the throat, neck, back, chest and belly.

Furthermore, those same exercises cause the muscles of the stomach and other interior structures to squeeze together and expand. This alternate expansion and construction in its turn empty out the waste, useless and accumulated materials. Thus constipation and its attendant ills are to a large extent relieved by singing.

In brief, therefore, the sweet concourse of vocal sounds, called singing, undoubtedly act in a fashion as substitutes for dumb bells, Indian clubs, pitching quoits, playing golf, base ball and swimming.

Like dancing, the exercise received in singing is more enjoyable, soothing to the physical fabric than are gymnastics, which a man does merely from sheer duty. You sing with spirit and pleasure; often you will take the prescribed course of physical training or gymnasium work, simply because your will dictates and demands it; because your better knowledge calls for it.

If the encaged canary bird imprisoned in my lady’s chamber did not trill for his brilliant songs he would die of inactivity.

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