Qigong Low Impact Exercise

With growing numbers of people embracing alternative forms of medicine, it is no surprise that Eastern fitness practices - namely yoga and meditation - are also becoming increasingly popular in North American societies. Indeed, rather than looking exclusively for exercise routines designed to sculpt their bodies, people are now seeking ones that also address their mind-body connection. In other words, for many, fitness is becoming as much about mental health as it is about physical benefits.

Within this context has emerged a type of exercise designed specifically to reduce stress as well as improve overall health and life longevity; it is called qigong.

What is Quigong?

According to the National Qigong Association (NQA), qigong - which comes from the Chinese words qi (pronounced chee), meaning life force, and gong (pronounced gung), meaning accomplishment - is not only an exercise, but an entire health care system.

As a routine, it combines slow physical movements with breathing techniques and mind concentration. Qigong can be defined in three ways: as a martial art, a spiritual exercise, or a medical practice, encompassing low-impact techniques as well as more physically strenuous ones.

The lower-impact versions, such as tai chi, are particularly well suited for seniors, those with physical limitations to exercise, as well as those looking for a more spiritual fitness experience. In fact, the few simple rules they contain - always move from the center, don't lock or bend the knees, and keep arms neutral - make them suitable for virtually anyone.

What are the Benefits of Qigong?

According to its practitioners, qigong's benefits are as diverse as the techniques themselves. Some of these benefits include the following effects of qigong:

  • reduces stress
  • builds stamina
  • increases energy
  • builds up the immune system
  • improves functioning of cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive systems
  • boosts overall health and may speed up recovery from illness
  • reduces hypertension and falling incidents in the elderly
  • over the long term, reestablishes mind/body/soul connection

The problem, however, is that the medical community has not produced widely recognized studies verifying these effects. The Qigong Institute has a database of several thousand of these, although the majority are either anecdotal or involve small sample groups.

That being said, with the growing number of people becoming interested in qigong practices, there most certainly will be some studies conducted very soon. In the meantime, however, that doesn't mean you should shy away. In fact, qigong's sheer history - dating back to 700 BCE - might just be evidence enough.

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