“The human body ought to be exercised until it is tired, but this should not be carried to an extreme. As it is agitated [exercised], the digestion improves and the circulation through the blood vessels is freed so that disease is unable to arise.”
~ Hua Tuo, 3rd Century CE
“One thousand days to learn, ten thousand days to refine.” – Japanense Proverb
If you lived in a diverse area such as New York City Chinatown or even here in the suburbs of Maryland..you’ll see close-knit Chinese communities wake up at the crack of dawn to swing around their arms like rag-dolls and do funny-looking exercises.
When I was in China in 2016, I was up by 6:00a.m and rushing out to go do Tai Chi with a prominent instructor by the lake in Hangzhou, China. Every morning, as I walked past the several bamboo ledges where I saw this woman, with her hands firmly on her hips, yelling at the top of her lungs out into the lake. If I was guessing, she was doing this to improve the cardio-pulmonary function of her lungs and relieve some stress, although maybe she just enjoyed yelling into the lake! Why do these people wake up so early to do these exercises in the morning? By 7a.m the entire lakeside was filled with several people swinging their arms, doing tai chi, performing Chinese folk dances (sometimes with props) or training their martial arts. It is a lifestyle that has been passed down for generations that has been shown to improve longevity. Now, what can that teach us in our modern society here in the States?
Qi Gong is the practice of cultivating the inner functional energetic processes within our bodies. There are several branches of QiGong that have a health and medical focus which has been practice over thousands of years- one of which is Tai Chi.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong have been shown to “improve renal and cardiac function in kidney and heart disease patients, improve lung function, reduce blood pressure, reduce inflammatory markers in the blood..” -Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi
A 2010 study demonstrated the various benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong such as:
-improved bone density
-improved cardiopulmonary functions including marked improvement in the biomarkers of heart health
– improvement in balance and prevention of falls
Tao, W.-W., Jiang, H., Tao, X.-M., Jiang, P., Sha, L.-Y., & Sun, X.-C. (2016). Effects of Acupuncture, Tuina, Tai Chi, Qigong, and Traditional Chinese Medicine Five-Element Music Therapy on Symptom Management and Quality of Life for Cancer Patients: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 51(4), 728–747.
Jahnke, R., Larkey, L., Rogers, C., Etnier, J., & Lin, F. (2010). A comprehensive review of health benefits of qigong and tai chi. American Journal of Health Promotion: AJHP, 24(6), e1–e25.