Get inspired for a healthy lifestyle

Fence mural

Pauls Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine fence mural is artists’ Grieta Butjankova and Aleksejs Beleckis story about maintaining a healthy spirit in everyday life – physical exercise, personal hygiene, and healthy eating.

Inspired by medical history and the museum’s collection, artists created fence mural. We will take a closer look at the images which were the inspiration of the mural and their history.

Screws and bolts, tools and parts and all to diagnose better

Diagnostics provide a better understanding of whether and what helps a patient and what is the best way to provide it. In the 19th century, Gustav Zander (1835-1920) Swedish doctor and inventor created machines for diagnostic. 

The patient had to stand still in the device, and various gauges were fixed around him at a certain height, which allowed to detect the deformity of the spine or other pathologies.

Then based on the results, the specialist could recommend specific mechanotherapy devices for physiotherapy or massage to the patient. The machine, which because of its appearance, is often considered a tool for torture, was painless to use and facilitated the administration of appropriate medical physiotherapy for the patient.

Diagnostic device
Diagnostic device

The grandfather of the exercise machine and his works

Introducing the grandparents of modern exercise machines – physiotherapy devices created by the Swedish doctor and inventor Gustav Zander. Functionally very similar, visually a little more complicated, but with one goal – to train specific muscle groups of the body with the help of mechanical devices. 

The principle remains the same: the device is operated by the patient, who is assigned to muscle training, but the therapy assistant can adjust the weight or resistance.

Zander’s mechanotherapy devices were special because they allowed each device to be individually adapted to the user’s physical condition and improvement goals.

Chest expanding workout machine
Bicep workout machine

Body hardening in the style of the 19th century

Sebastian Kneipp (1821–1897), a 19th-century German priest, emphasized the healing properties of water and developed the hydro or water therapy we still use.

A gentle approach was recommended for hydrotherapy procedures, gradually extending the duration of the procedures and lowering the water temperature so that they do not become a daunting affliction.

According to S. Kneipp, health promotion principles strengthen the whole body, helps to harden the body and soul, as well as strengthen the immune system.

Modern understanding and determination to harden the body and start a cold bath or paddle barefoot in a stream or take an ice bath are based on similar principles.

Body hardening procedure
Body hardening procedure

Exercises for gentlemen, exercises for ladies, exercises for everyone

MHM fence murals tell a story about gymnastics as an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. 

On the fence, we can see gymnastic exercises with tools from the beginning of the 20th century, and activities that can be done anywhere. 

Today gymnastics is an integral part of professional sports, medical treatment, physical fitness and daily routine, but it has not always been the case.

Although proofs about gymnastics are found in ancient civilizations, gymnastics has taken a new role at times when people’s lifestyles became less active as no longer people worked in the field or walked long distances.The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote that “the education of the body must precede that of the mind”, meaning that gymnastics and physical education of the body are equally important as intellectual. To compensate for our inactive lifestyle, we introduce conscious sports and gymnastics in our daily life – gymnastics can be very different and suitable for everyone according to their abilities and wishes, it remains to choose the most suitable for one.

Exercise with sticks, MHM collection
Exercise with balls, MHM collection

A toy with problems of morality

The first evidence of gymnastic rings, also called hula hoops, can be found on vase drawings in Athens in the 5th century BC, but it became more popular in the 19th century when it was also used for exercise and physical activity.

During the exercises with the hula hoop, aerobic training is performed, the basic muscle mass is increased and even the waist and hip circumference are reduced. But children enjoy the perfect circle for playing – jumping through or throwing it.

Did you know that this innocent children’s toy was once banned for street use in Japan because its movements were considered inappropriate?

Exercise with a hula hoop

Mobility for everyone

The invention of the wheelchair increased mobility for those who for some reason could not move otherwise. The oldest wheelchair drawing was found in China on a sarcophagus around 1600 BC, and since then the wheelchair has undergone significant improvements.

Over time, wheelchairs have been made of different materials, they have been made from wood, wickered, at lastly made from metal and rubber. Initially wheelchair served to facilitate movement indoors – they were heavy and equipped with only two wheels, which was not convenient for maneuvering. 

The purpose of the wheelchair has changed so it is more comfortable for the user, also to widen the possibilities for wheelchair use, for example using it with skis or bike. A wheelchair bicycle can be seen on the fence of MHM, which allowed a person with reduced mobility to be ridden by a bicycle.

Wicker wheelchair at a resort event, MHM collection

Published: December, 2021


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