In Chinese medicine there is a saying “Too much sitting destroys the flesh, too much lying damages the qi.” Many people have a very sedative lifestyle due to their occupation, but lack of movement and exercise can impair the circulation of qi (energy) and blood. When we exercise the muscles release and contract, the heart pumps the blood faster, the expansion and contraction of our lungs as our breath rate quickens all help to promote the flow and circulation of blood, body fluids and qi in the body. Increased circulation and regular movement can help improve digestion, boost immunity, clear the mind, increases our mood, help us maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of illness.
Lack of movement can manifest as poor muscle tone, weak muscles and tendons, fatigue, poor appetite, anxiety, depression, shortness of breath on exertion, and obesity. The amount of exercise and movement should be appropriate for someones age. When young we seem to have unlimited energy and can do strenuous activities, but as we age we should limit the strenuous activities and opt for gentler movements. If doing a certain type of exercise or activity leaves you feeling exhausted than more than likely it was too much for you. Finding an exercise or movement that you enjoy is essential for long term success, its not fun watching the clock while you workout and wishing it was over.
In Chinese medicine stasis or blockages of qi within the body is the basis for many ailments and pain. Movement and stretching is a great way to alleviate these blocks and get things moving properly.
Stretching is important even if you do not exercise regularly. Stretching helps to improve flexibility and reduce the risk of injury. Even if you are not naturally bendy your flexibility can be increased with time. Flexibility is the one thing we can continue to gain as we age. Stretching can help improve posture, by encouraging proper body alignment and reduce slouching. Stretching helps reduce soreness in the body by increasing blood and nutrient supply to the muscles.
Stretching also helps us reduce tension in the body. Many people carry tension and stress in their muscles, by stretching the muscles out you are effectively promoting healthy stress management for the body. Which in turn also helps us to calm the mind. The body feels good when we stretch it out, alleviate blocks and allow the blood to flow freely the way its suppose to.
When stretching make sure your body is warm. Stretching is not a warm up. Think of your muscles like taffy; when taffy is cold it beaks easily, yet when its warm its supple and moves easily. Your muscles are like that, they move and stretch better when they are warm. Stretch the major muscles. Stretch the body at least 2-3 times a week. Most importantly make sure you are doing the stretches correctly to avoid injury.
Originally published in MyKawartha Jan 17, 2019