CHAPTER II: Functional Activity - The Secret of Power

Vitality means normal functioning. When the organs of the body are all performing their duties satisfactorily, you can practically be sure of a plentiful supply of vitality. So it can truly be said that proper functioning is the secret of power.

The most important of all functional processes begins in the stomach. There is where the blood-making process commences, and, since a man is what the blood makes of him, you can realize the tremendous importance of this particular function. If the digestion is carried on properly, and the blood is made rich in those elements that add to life, health and strength, then the functions of the stomach are being properly performed. Strength of this organ, therefore, is absolutely indispensable in vitality building.

This blood-making work is then continued by the small intestines, where a large part of the elements of nourishment essential to life are assimilated, taken up and carried to the portal circulation, thence to the lungs and heart, and finally throughout the entire body. It is absolutely impossible for one to enjoy the possession of a high degree of vitality, or of the general good health upon which vitality depends, unless the intestinal tract is in a healthy and vigorous condition, so that the functions of this particular part of the body- machine may be performed without a flaw. The entire digestive system may be compared to a boiler supplying the energy by which the engine does its work.

Then consider the heart itself. One cannot underestimate the functional importance of this organ. It is commonly regarded as the most vital spot in the body, the very center of life-indeed the poets have made it the seat of love and the emotions in general. If anything, the brain and nervous system should be regarded as the real center of life, but the function of the heart, the marvelous muscle-pump, is so vital and indispensable that the world is accustomed to thinking of it as the organ of first importance. And so it is. Should it cease its efforts for a few moments even, life becomes extinct, and you are no longer an animate being. A strong heart, therefore, is if anything even more important than a strong stomach. But you must remember that the strength of the heart to a large extent depends upon the cooperation of a strong stomach, or at least upon the proper digestion of food. For the muscles and tissues of the heart, like those of all other organs of the body, are fed by the blood, which depends for its life-giving and life- sustaining qualities upon the food, which is first acted upon by the stomach and thus made available for use by the cell structures in all parts of the body. The heart is truly a wonderful organ, the one set of muscles which apparently never rest, but work on night and day, year after year, throughout our entire life.

Furthermore, the part played by the lungs in the maintenance of life and health cannot be underestimated. Impaired functioning of the lungs has an immediate and vital effect upon every other part of the body. It is through this channel that we secure the oxygen, without which the processes of life would terminate almost instantaneously. It is through this channel also that the elimination of carbonic acid gas is accomplished. Without the continuous and thorough elimination of carbonic acid our tissues would become choked up and poisoned in such a way that all cell activity and bodily function would come to an abrupt end. If the lungs are sound and healthy in every respect the supply of oxygen is abundant, and the elimination of carbonic acid, which may be regarded as the "smoke" of the human system, is carried on perfectly. Breathing is only one of the various functions that must be continuously carried on, but it is of such importance as to require special attention in building vitality.

In the work of eliminating impurities and keeping the system clean the kidneys are to be classed with the lungs, although they have to do with poisonous wastes of a different type. Insufficient functioning of the kidneys is not so immediately fatal as the failure of the lungs to do their work, but proper action of the kidneys is none the less important. If the poisons which are normally eradicated from the system in this way are allowed to remain or to accumulate, they poison the body as truly as any external toxic element that could be introduced. Insufficient activity of the kidneys leads to the accumulation of those poisons, bringing on convulsions of the most serious nature, and unless the condition is relieved there will be fatal results. The requirements of health, therefore, demand that the kidneys should be strong and active, and that their functional capacity should be maintained at the highest degree of efficiency.


In supplementing the work of the kidneys and the lungs, the excretory function of the skin is only secondary in importance. The skin has various functions. It is one of our chief organs of sense, the sense of touch being hardly second to those of sight and hearing. It is likewise a wonderful protective structure, and at the same time is a channel of elimination which cannot be ignored with impunity. To interfere with the eliminative function of the skin by absolutely clogging the pores for a period of several hours means death. One may say that we really breathe through the skin.

The importance of all these functions of elimination is vital. Pure blood depends upon the perfect and continuous excretion of the wastes formed in the body through the processes of life, and without keeping the blood pure in this manner the body rapidly becomes poisoned by its own waste products, with the result that health, vitality and even life are lost. Health is entirely a question of pure blood, and, while the blood depends first upon the building material supplied through the digestive system, it also depends equally as much upon functional activity in the matter of elimination.

The Liver

The liver, which enjoys the distinction of being the largest organ in the body, is designed for the performance of a multiplicity of functions. It not only produces the bile, which has such an important part to play in the work of digestion, but it has a very important work in the changing of foods absorbed into such material as may be assimilated or used by the cells of the various tissues throughout the body.

For instance, it is part of the function of the liver to bring about chemical changes in albuminous foods which make it possible for the tissues to assimilate these. It also has much to do with bringing about certain chemical changes in sugar or dextrose. Furthermore, the liver has an important function in connection with the excretion of broken-down bodily tissue, converting this dead matter into a form in which it can be filtered out of the blood by the kidneys. Failure of the liver to perform its work satisfactorily will upset the digestive and functional system, or may lead to an accumulation of uric acid in the body, possibly resulting in rheumatism, gout, neuralgia, disturbances of circulation and other evils. When your liver "goes on strike" you may expect trouble in general. A normal condition of the entire body depends upon perfect and continuous functioning of the liver in cooperation with all the other vital organs. The same may be said of the pancreas, spleen, the thyroid gland and other organs which have a special function to perform. The body is really a combination of all these various parts and functions, and without strength and activity in all of them, simultaneous and harmonious, not one of these interdependent parts could do its work, and the body as a whole would be thrown into a state of disease. Strength of the internal organs is infinitely more important than mere muscular strength, if one could properly make a comparison.

How, therefore, shall we build this internal, functional strength? Can our organs be made to function more satisfactorily? How may we promote their greater activity?

It will be the purpose of the succeeding chapters in this volume to point out how the vital organs may be strengthened and the sum total of one's vitality thereby increased. It is true that internal strength is more important than external muscular strength, but the fact is that they go together. As a general thing, by building muscular strength one is able at the same time to develop internal strength. The influence of exercise in purifying the blood and in promoting activity in all the internal organs really strengthens the "department of the interior" at the same time that it develops the muscles concerned. Muscular stagnation means organic stagnation, to a very large degree. To be thoroughly alive and to enjoy the possession of unlimited vitality it is necessary to be both muscularly and functionally active. The requirements of Nature, or what are more commonly termed the "laws of Nature," in reference to all these bodily functions must be strictly observed, for it is only under such conditions that life and health can be maintained at their best.

The body may be regarded as a machine. Why not make it a strong machine, and as perfect as possible? Its efficiency means everything. If you had an engine, a motorcycle, a sewing machine or a printing press that was a very poor machine, you would like to exchange it for a better one, would you not? You would even spend large sums of money to secure a better machine to take the place of the poor one. But if your body is imperfect, inefficient, weak, rusty and clogged up with grit, dirt and all the waste products due to the "wear" in the bodily structures, you seem nevertheless entirely satisfied. You go on from day to day and from year to year without thinking of the possibility of getting a better physical equipment. But why not consider the body in the same light as any other machine that is of value to you. Your body is the thing that keeps you alive. If it is a poor instrument, then it is more important that you should get a better one than that you should buy a new engine or new printing-press or new sewing-machine. The only difference is, that it is within your power to get a better body machine by building up the one that you have. You can repair it, you can add to its vitality, you can strengthen the functional system, you can make it more perfect and efficient. You can make it a high-power machine that will be of real value in any undertaking that you may wish to carry out. You can make it strong instead of weak, and you can thus enjoy that superabundant vitality without which life is hardly worth the living.

Vitality Supreme - Table of Contents

Charles Atlas Course

Functional Activity - The Secret of Power - Vitality Supreme by Bernarr MacFadden
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