Friday, September 7, 2018

Exercise for Women in the Early 19th Century

From Shannon Selin:
Dancing is the most favorite exercise of young women; and when properly taught, is healthful, and confers gracefulness of gait, resulting from the disciplined management of the whole body. In general, however, the movements are confined in the feet and legs, whilst the action of the other parts of the frame is wholly neglected. There is a wish also to imitate professional dancers in young females; but the steps are, in general, too rapid to be altogether safe for the tender frame of women who are not regularly trained to the art: the body is supported too much on the toes, and the fine elasticity of the double arch of the foot endangered; the ligaments of the ankle are apt to be strained and overlengthened, and the instep to lose its height, from the tendon of the sole of the foot being overstretched; thence, when the dance is discontinued, the gait, instead of being firm and elastic, is shuffling. Professional dancers have generally flat feet, and walk as if they were lame.
Independent, however, of the mode of dancing, it is an exercise the daily employment of which greatly benefits young females at that period of life when most of their other occupations are of a sedentary nature; but as they are universally fond of it, they are likely to carry it to excess, which should never be permitted; particularly when the more rapid and violent dances, Scotch reels, for instance, are attempted. Exertion such as these dances require, if long continued, are extremely injurious to girls of a delicate frame and with a narrow chest. Dancing is also injurious whilst the body is yet weak in convalescence from acute diseases. When too much exercised, it likewise is apt to produce ganglions on the ankle joints of delicate girls, as wind galls are produced on the legs of young horses, who are too soon or too much worked. Upon the whole, nevertheless, dancing is the exercise best adapted for young women; and one, when discreetly employed, is highly conducive to health. (7) (Read more.)

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