We all know that exercise is good for us, although there have been some scientific studies done recently that seemed to indicate the benefits from exercise weren’t that great.
But as we know from our own lives as athletes and as teachers, movement of any kind brings positive physiological changes to our bodies, releasing endorphins that elevate our moods, flushing toxins that get stuck in our bodies and increasing our endurance and strength.
Now, according to the Harvard Medical School, the secret to better health is, wait for it, exercise!
Regular exercise improves your mood, boosts your ability to fend off infection, and lowers your risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer. Today, hundreds of studies have demonstrated that exercise helps you feel better and live longer.
The secret to better health — exercise
Children, adults and senior all benefit from regular exercise, with discipline you can enhance your health and well-being at any age. But although many people understand that exercise is important to living a balanced life, it’s become too easy to put it off and sit around watching TV, surfing the Internet, or playing computer and video games.
The minimum threshold of activity for good health is burning at least 700 to 1,000 calories a week through physical pursuits. Experts are now saying that ‘decades of solid science confirm that exercise improves health and can extend your life.’ By adding a minimum of half an hour of moderately intense physical activity to your day will prevent many serious ailments – heart disease, diabetes, depression, and several types of cancer, particularly breast and colon cancers.
According to these experts, regular exercise has been known to help you sleep better, reduce the symptoms of stress, help you control your weight, definitely brighten your mood, sharpen your mental functioning, and, as an extra bonus, improve your sex life!
Research shows that your balanced exercise program includes four types of exercises – aerobic activity, strength training, flexibility training and balance exercises – and each component benefits your body in a different way.
First, Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise should be the centerpiece of your fitness program. Research shows the disease-fighting benefits of exercise revolves around cardiovascular activity – walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling. If you are just starting your new exercise regimen, you should begin by working out at moderate intensity when doing aerobic exercise - we suggest brisk walking while doing the Extraordinary Breath. (To learn correct deep abdominal breathing, download our free eBook, Extraordinary Breath, available on our website
.) Moderate intensity exercising is safe for almost everyone and will give you the desired health benefits. As you build up strength and endurance, you can increase the intensity of your aerobic routine and enjoy even greater health benefits.
We’ve found that our Shao Lin Chuan martial arts routine (which we learned as teenagers) is a perfect aerobic exercise, from the envigorating warmups, the sinew-strengthening stretching exercises to the powerful forms themselves. Shao Lin Chuan is a dynamic, fluid, powerful system of martial arts developed by Buddhist monks in China to cultivate a philosophy of wellness, and strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance are developed through this practice.
Second, Strength Training
You can build muscle and protect your bones with strength or resistance training, such as elastic-band workouts and the use of weight machines or free weights.
It’s a fact that bones lose calcium and weaken with age and strength training can help slow or sometimes even reverse this trend. Strength training will make you look and feel better, and increase your endurance for everyday activities: climbing stairs, carrying groceries, and even better performance at your job. By strengthening your muscles your body will have better mobility and balance, with a lower risk of falling and injuring yourself. You can also control your weight with strength training, because each pound of muscle burns more calories than its equivalent in fat.
Tai Chi Chuan, and in particular the lively Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Chuan that we teach, is excellent for improving your health. Regular practice of Tai Chi Chuan, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, has been shown to maintain and even increase bone density. Practicing Tai Chi Chuan on a daily basis has greater health benefits as well, among them improving balance and increasing musculoskeletal strength.
Third, Flexibility Exercises
Stretching or flexibility training is the third prong of a balanced exercise program. Muscles tend to shorten and weaken with age. Shorter, stiffer muscle fibers make you vulnerable to injuries, back pain, and stress. But regularly performing exercises that isolate and stretch the elastic fibers surrounding your muscles and tendons can counteract this process. And stretching improves your posture and balance.
For those with chronic back pain, doctors are now recommending daily exercises to ease the pain, keep the spine flexible and recover faster from the injury.
As some of you know, Donald suffered a severe back injury about twelve years ago, a frank injury that ruptured the disc between L4 and L5. You wouldn’t know it today by looking at him, though, because he used all of his wisdom and knowledge to avoid the surgery his doctors were insisting upon and brought himself to full recovery. Paramount to the robust spinal health he enjoys today is his intention-driven bio-energetic exercises.
As you can see in this video from our 2011 summer retreat in the Swiss Alps, Donald has no difficulty demonstrating the demanding Chinese Pushups for our students (watch for it at the 1:14 mark).
Fourth, Balance Exercises
In most people, balance slowly erodes over time, leaving people fearful and hesitant at home and in public places. Being fearful of falling while you are doing simple tasks and exercises is a very real concern, and stops you from enjoying your life to the fullest.
Thankfully, we’ve found that mindfully performing balance exercises is one of the best ways to protect yourself against falls that can lead to temporary or permanent disability, and we’ve helped many seniors regain their joy in life because they could resume beloved activities in their daily lives.
Doing your balance exercises will take only a few minutes a day, and you can easily incorporate them into the warm-up portion of your workout. According to the Harvard Medical School, many strength-training exercises also serve as balance exercises, and balance-enhancing movements may simply be woven into other forms of exercise, such as Tai Chi Chuan, yoga, and Pilates.
We have an excellent series of balance exercises that we teach in almost every one of our retreats, and the results in our older students (and even the younger ones!) have been phenomenal.
When you exercise on a regular basis, you will:
- Reduce your chances of getting heart disease. For those who already have heart disease, exercise reduces the chances of dying from it.
- Lower your risk of developing hypertension and diabetes.
- Reduce your risk for colon cancer and some other forms of cancer.
- Improve your mood and mental functioning.
- Keep your bones strong and joints healthy.
- Help you maintain a healthy weight.
- Help you maintain your independence well into your later years.
And who wouldn’t want all those wonderful health and longevity benefits?
Source: Harvard Medical School.