Chinese Exercise for Health and Wellness

(c) Can Stock Photo / Jochen

Benjamin Franklin once reportedly said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than when it comes to our health; it is unfortunate that we generally only wake up to this truth when something goes wrong with our body and we are forced to seek medical attention. Our past habits always catch up with us eventually, and we are often left wishing that we could turn back time and undo some of the harmful things we have done to ourselves.

Those who practice East Asian medicine, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, have a strong focus on the prevention of disease through various practices such as Chi Kung (Qigong), Tai Chi, and meditation. In contrast, Western medicine generally steps in post symptom, after the damage has been done. In relatively recent times doctors do seem to be taking more interest in preventing disease, but we are a long way behind traditional Asian medicine.

The inevitable conclusion is that Chinese exercise for health and wellness may offer a real alternative; one that may enable us to live more healthily and for longer. To appreciate the power of these exercises we need to understand something of the philosophy from which they stem.

Chi, Qi or Ki – It’s all about Energy!

Eastern Medicine is based on the premise that we all have an energy force called ‘Chi’, the flow of which keeps our organs and body systems functioning optimally. By regularly practising certain exercises, along with acupuncture and various herbal practices, the flow of this chi energy is stimulated in the body and the various diseases that can occur do not happen. The key concept is that people who are already healthy should engage in these practices in order to stay healthy and free of disease.

Chinese medicine is also holistic in nature, treating the entire person, mind, body and spirit. It focuses on returning the whole person to a place of wellness. Conversely, Western medicine looks at symptoms, treating the disease and not necessarily the person. This typically means either a prescription, or surgery to target the main problem, instead of addressing any underlying causes or issues that may have caused the disease to begin with. While Western medicine is probably a step ahead of Eastern medicine when it comes to the science of healing illnesses, there has been far less attention paid to prevention and targeting the holistic wellness of patients.

By Rs8sunding (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Bringing East and West Together

Eastern and Western medical practices began to come together when missionaries from the West traveled to the East in the 18th and 19th centuries. By the beginning of the 1900s, Western medical schools began cropping up in China, spreading their knowledge to Chinese culture.

It wasn’t until the latter part of the 20th Century that Westerners began to look at the possible benefits of the various Eastern practices, including Chi Kung, Tai Chi, Meditative practices, and Acupuncture. Surprisingly, it was found that both types of medicine—East and West—were found to help people heal and feel better. In fact, they found that both of these practices could be helpful in preventing and curing illnesses.

Now the potential has become a reality as both Eastern and Western medical practices are used in the management of many kinds of disease. We are now fully recognising the advantages of preventing disease and strengthening the body against disease with natural methods and regular practise. Western doctors now have the opportunity to ‘prescribe’ acupuncture for the management of disease and have begun to see the benefits of exercises like Tai Chi and Chi Kung.

Among other things, these Eastern practices have been shown to regulate sleep, lessen pain, and decrease the side effects of Western medications. While there are still those who practice just one form of medicine, more and more Western doctors are trying to incorporate elements of traditional Chinese medicine into their Western medical practices.

More and more people are beginning to embrace the joining of these two medical practices. Acupuncture works to reduce pain and corrects disorders of other parts of the body. Tai Chi improves overall health and has been shown to delay the effects of ageing, by noticeably improving flexibility, coordination, posture, and memory. Tai Chi is also very effective in fighting stress that in turn provides a wide variety of health benefits.

By Sergio Luiz Villasboas [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A New Paradigm

Many of the treatments of Western medicine verge on the miraculous and the skills and dedication of our doctors should not be underestimated. We certainly would not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so how can we best combine the benefits of Chinese exercise for health and wellness with Western medicine?

It seems to me that the key here is for all of us to take personal responsibility for our own health. We each need to do what we can to prevent illness and disease at every level of body, mind and spirit. Too often we live without much care for the damage we are doing to our body and only seek medical help when things go wrong, expecting the medical team to sort in out for us!

Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine use their health promoting practices to prevent diseases from happening all together. This leads to a sense of control, facilitating a greater sense of total body wellness. By using these various exercises in conjunction with Western medicine we are quite literally getting the best of both world views. With time the practice of Tai Chi and Chi Kung can add years to our life and life to our years.

Thanks for stopping by. Remember, the single most important step we can take is to take responsibility for our own health. Taking up a programme of Tai Chi and Chi Kung can help greatly and the benefits will soon become apparent in your life. Please, keep in touch. Share a comment or questions and I will get back to you. Click here to read The Big Idea – it may help you to understand our healing philosophy.




8 thoughts on “Chinese Exercise for Health and Wellness

  1. Hi Steve,
    Brilliant and well written piece, prevention is better than cure without a doubt.
    I love the contrast you show between the high tech western approach to cure and the eastern holistic approach to prevention, there is certainly a happy medium and it’s just a case of people adjusting their attitudes slightly.

    • Many thanks for your positive comment Paul. I’m a great believer in people taking responsibility for their health and you are absolutely right, this often does mean adjustment to a previously held belief or attitude.

  2. “Too often we live without much care for the damage we are doing to our body and only seek medical help when things go wrong, expecting the medical team to sort in out for us!” This is so damn true. Many of us take our health for granted and only start concerning when our body goes wrong.

    Really, Health is wealth! Without a healthy body you can’t do anything. Thanks for sharing these tips and advocating the importance of health!

  3. I definitely do not have a prevention attitude. I think I just deal with my body when I need a cure. And your article helps me to understand that prevention is better than cure. I used to do Karate but not too long ago stopped and am looking for a new sport to do. I think it may be Tai Chi. I really don’t know much about it but the benefits you write about here sound appealing so I am willing to give it a try. Thanks for your article. I am definitely going to live a more preventative life.

    • Many thanks for your comment Lindsey. You’re certainly not alone – most of us don’t take too much notice of our bodies until they go wrong. I hope that Tai Chi works for you in the same way it has for so many others.

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