Rules for Preserving Health in Victorian Times

health in Victorian times

Victorian ad for Smedley’s Chillie Paste that cured all sorts of ailments. Author’s Collection.

Victorians considered themselves to be health conscious. Because of their concern for their health, one Victorian publication provided a list of rules for Victorians to help preserve their health. Here is that list almost verbatim:

Habitual cheerfulness and composure of mind, arising from peace of conscience, constant reliance on the goodness of God, and the exercise of kindly feelings toward men. Peace of mind is essential to health as it is to happiness.

Strict control over the appetites and passions, with a fixed abhorrence of all excess, and all unlawful gratifications whatsoever. He that would enjoy good health must be “temperate in all things,” and habitually exercise the most rigid self-government; for every sort of vicious indulgence is highly injurious to health; first, directly, in its immediate effects on the body; and next, indirectly, in the perpetual dissatisfaction and anxiety of mind which it invariably occasions.

Early rising; and in order to accomplish this, take no supper, or if any, a very slight one, and go early to bed. The hour before bed-time should be spent in agreeable relaxation or in such exercises only as tend to compose the mind and promote inward peace and cheerfulness.

Simplicity, moderation, and regularity with respect to diet. A judicious selection of the articles of food, the careful avoiding of unwholesome dainties, and whatever has proved hurtful to the constitution. The quantity of food should be proportioned to the amount of exercise a person undergoes. Sedentary people should be rather abstemious; their food should be nutritious, easy of digestion, and moderate in quantity. Seldom eat any thing between meals.

Abstain from the use of wine and other stimulants. They may be employed to advantage in cases of extreme debility or extraordinary labor; — but, under any circumstances, if too freely or too frequently indulged in, they will most certainly impair your health and shorten your life.

Eat very slowly, with a view to the thorough mastication of your food; rather forego a meal or take but half the needful quantity, than eat too fast.

Victorian Calisthenics for Women, Public Domain

Victorian Calisthenics for Women. Public Domain.

Refrain from both mental and bodily exertion for a short time after the principal meal. If immediate exertion be required, only a slight repast should be taken instead of the usual meal. never eat a full meal when the body is heated or much fatigued with exercise. Wait till you are somewhat refreshed by a short interval of repose.

Occasional abstinence. When the system is feeble and disordered, diminish the quantity of your food, and allow yourself more time for exercise. In cases of slight indisposition a partial or a total fast will often be found the best restorative.

Take no physic unless it be absolutely necessary. Learn, if possible, how to keep well without it. In case of real indisposition, consult a competent medical advisor without delay, and implicitly attend to his directions so far as you think he is fully acquainted with your constitution, and with the best means of treating your disorder. Never risk your health and life either by neglecting serious illness or by tampering with quack remedies.

Gentle exercise should be taken regularly two hours a day at least; and it must never by forgotten that cheerfulness is an essential ingredient in all beneficial exercise. Mental relaxation is agreeable society, too, should be sought as often as due attention to business and other important affairs will permit.


Ellis, Benjamin Franklin, The Western Miscellany , Volume 1, 1849

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