Traditional Chinese Understanding of Healthy Exercise

cycleThere is a saying in Chinese medicine “if you eat right you don’t need medicine, if you exercise right you don’t need acupuncture”, which begs the big question what is right? We’ll discuss traditional eastern ideals and understandings of exercise that can be used as a guide to healthier exercise.

 In many sports and activities, there is a culture of pushing yourself harder and faster. This is beneficial for muscle growth and stamina. The body also needs to rest and recover, which is beneficial for muscle repair, rebuilding, and strengthening. How can you tell if you have over done it?



Listen to your body, it will tell you…

When exercising the movement of muscles rely on blood for nourishment. When you over exercise there is too much consumption these nutrients.

Emotional change. Usually the first thing that can occur is a sudden emotional change, in particular anxiety, but you may also notice impatience, irritability, or melancholy.

Muscle cramping. Your muscles will start cramping. We are talking about all muscles, like muscles surrounding you GIT.

Quality of sleep. If you are having trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, dreaming to a point that it wakes you, sleep walking or talking etc. A good night sleep is reliant on good quality of blood. The Chinese refer to blood as an anchor for the spirit.

In women, changes in you cycle are a good indicator.

Other signs to look out for are palpitations, being fidgety, light headedness, dizziness.


danceTraditional exercise

In traditional exercise, like Tai qi, yoga, some styles of martial arts, there is more emphasis on the function of the body over how the body looks, longevity over short-term gain, and building a connection between mind and body. Here are some principles to traditional exercise.

Moving without too much effort.

The idea is if the exercise hurts you, your muscles are either not strong enough, you are not flexible enough, or you’re doing it wrong.

Sweating but not losing your breath.

Exercising till your literally gasping for air is traditionally thought to be waste of energy. The energy you use should be coursing around the body not out of your lungs.

The right time for the right exercise.

The time of day you exercise is also very important. The morning is the best time between 5-7am. The idea being that after many hours of sleep, metabolism is at its slowest. Its time to get up, work up a light sweat but don’t wear yourself out.

The worst time is after 9pm. This is the time blood should return within to be cleansed by the liver, which in turn cleanses the whole body. When exercising at this time the blood is being pumped to the muscles and nutrients are being consumed.


Sweating too much can also lead to problems. Your sweat is made from mainly from water and also contains many minerals, lactate, and urea. It is important to replenish these minerals afterwards.

So drink plenty of water and get some electrolytes in as well. Traditionally a pinch of salt and sugar was used in water but now there are whole range of drinks that contain electrolytes that will do the job.







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