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The Best 13 Health Habits Ever, As Only Walt Whitman Could Describe Them

Healthy living sounds downright poetic in Walt Whitman's hands. A long-lost series of newspaper articles called “Manly Health and Training” penned by the bard himself has recently been discovered and published. Read these excerpts to see how Whitman’s tips from 1858 hold up to modern doctors’ recommendations.


Get up!

“To you, clerk, literary man, sedentary person, man of fortune, idler, the same advice. Up! The world (perhaps you now look upon it with pallid and disgusted eyes) is full of zest and beauty for you, if you approach it in the right spirit!” (Yup: Here’s proof walking makes you happier.)


Take a cold bath and exfoliate

“In most cases the best thing he can commence the day with is a rapid wash of the whole body in cold water, using a sponge, or the hands rubbing the water over the body—and then coarse towels to rub dry with; after which, the hair gloves, the flesh-brush, or any thing handy, may be used, for friction, and to put the skin in a red glow all over. … You cannot have a manly soundness, unless the pores of the skin are kept open.” (Here’s what derms actually do recommend for glowing skin.)

iStock/Johnny Greig

Inhale the air

“As a counterweight to the effects of confined air and employment, much, very much reliance is to be placed on inhaling the air, and in walking, or otherwise gently exercising, as much as possible out-doors. … Few know what virtue there is in the open air. Beyond all charms or medications, it is what renews vitality.”


Exercise before noon

“Spend an hour of the forenoon (say from 10 to 11 o’clock,) in some good exercises for the arms, hands, breast, spine, shoulders, and waist; the dumb-bells, sparring, or a vigorous attack on the sand-bags, (a large bag, filled with sand, and suspended in such a position that it can be conveniently struck with the fists.) This should be done systematically, and gradually increased upon making the exertion harder and harder.”



“Walking, or some form of it, is nature’s great exercise—so far ahead of all others as to make them of no account in comparison. In modern times, and among all classes of people, the cheap and rapid methods of traveling almost everywhere in vogue, have certainly made a sad depreciation in the locomotive powers of the race.”


Eat supper early

“Portions of heavy food, or large quantities of any kind, taken at evening, or any time during the night, attract an undue amount of the nervous energy to the stomach … The supper, which must not be at a late hour, we would recommend always to be light—occasionally making this meal to consist of fruit.” (Walt Whitman was right again! Here’s why eating late makes you fat.)


Don’t overmedicate

“It is probable that the people of the United States use more medicines than any other equal number of persons in the world. … The cure must be by other means, and nature, as in all else, is to be looked to, studied, followed, and faithfully relied upon.”


Health is an investment

“It must be realized, throughout, that perpetual care is indispensable to health. It is just as reasonable to suppose you can squander your fortune at random, and still find it remaining at the end of many years, as that you can squander your health and have that remain. … From a money-making point of view, therefore, health is an investment that pays better than any other.”


Wear shoes “worn by base-ball players”

“In one of the feet there are thirty-six bones, and the same number of joints, continually playing in locomotion, and needing always a free and loose action. Yet they are always squeezed into boots . . . formed on a dandified idea of beauty, as it is understood at Paris and London, and not as it is exemplified by nature. . . . In favorable weather, the shoe now specially worn by the base-ball players would be a very good improvement to be introduced for general use.” (Here’s what else your feet are trying to tell you about your health.)


Eat clean meat

“Let the main part of the diet be meat, to the exclusion of all else. … And it may be as well to add, that by meat diet, we do not mean the eating of meat cooked in grease and saturated therewith—or in any made dishes—but meat simply cooked, broiled, roasted, or the like. This is the natural eating of man and woman.”

iStock/Xavier Arnau

Up and away!

“Often, a complete change of scene, associations, companionship, habits … is the best thing that can be done for a man’s health … There are thousands of young men now in New York, and in all American cities, who go on year after year, slaves of habits they know to be bad, but pressing close and helpless upon them, because they are also the habits of their friends and intimate companions. To such, our counsel is, Up and away!”

iStock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund

Embrace middle age

“The periods of middle and old age are perhaps the finest, in some of the most important respects, through life. … No one seems to understand that there is attainable a high flush condition of stamina, strength, vigor, personality, clearness and manly beauty and love-power, thoroughly sustained many years, in perfect specimens of trained health, through middle and old age, towering in its ripeness and completeness, till it rivals and fully equals the best and handsomest specimens of early manhood—and indeed transcends them!”

iStock/Yuri Arcurs

Realize your own resilience

“The human frame is full, in every case, of latent power. Though wounded, buffeted, violated, time and again, it seems joyously to respond to the first return of reason and natural habitudes. Indeed, of all the amazing things about the human body, one of the most amusing is, how much it can stand, and still live on!”

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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