America’s rapidly expanding waistline has become a huge concern in the past decade. Today, eight out of ten adults are overweight and some 40 million people are considered obese. It’s not hard to see why: We eat foods that contain tightly-packed calories in smaller packaged and don’t engage in enough physical activity. Here are 3 unique and easy exercises that will get you in shape this spring!
You have to move to lose weight
The number one cause of being overweight is inactivity. The human body is designed for physical activity. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who spent most of their lives on the move; their metabolic functions matched their physical lifestyle. Nowadays, we live in opposition to our nature. The reason most diets fail is because our bodies are not designed to subsist on meager foods. We are designed to consume a good amount of energy -- and then to burn that energy. Physical activity is the key to a healthy metabolism.
Physical activity does not necessarily mean abrupt, fast-paced and forceful exercise. What if I told you that gentle, slower, and deliberate movements are just as beneficial for your health? Unique to China are the gentler kind of movement arts that promote energy, balance of function, and a calm mind. I call them mind-body exercises, and they include tai chi, qigong, and Dao In yoga. Many recent studies have confirmed that these mind-body exercises help balance blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol, equilibrium, and other organ functions. Mind-body exercise works through a system of energy communication within the body. By deliberately activating the flow of energy and removing blockages, communication is restored and organ functions return to their optimal level. You can learn these mind-body exercises with a teacher or from instructional DVDs.
Taken from a tradition that is thousands of years old, here are three qigong exercises that target your weight and get you in shape. The qigong exercises from this article are adapted from my book Secrets of Self-Healing, where you can find many more exercises to benefit a variety of health conditions.
Exercise 1: Swimming Dragon speeds up your metabolism
This simple qigong exercise can help speed up your metabolism and reduce your appetite. Not unlike a belly dance, Swimming Dragon is a wriggling rhythmic dance of the torso, which burns energy and promotes fat burning in the abdomen.
1. In a comfortable, quiet place stand with your feet together and ankles touching, or as close together as you can get them. Bring hands over your head, with palms together and fingers pointing up. Keep your palms together during this entire exercise.
2. Inhaling, push your waist out to the right side while keeping your head and upper torso straight. Simultaneously move your right elbow to the right, so that it rests at shoulder height.
3. Exhaling, push your waist out to the left side while keeping your head and upper torso straight. Simultaneously move your left elbow fully to the left at shoulder height.
4. Repeat this movement several times. Every time you move your waist to the right, bend your knees slightly more, lowering your entire body as you squat. Be sure to keep your upper torso and head straight.
5. With each right movement, move your hands lower, keeping your palms together and fingers pointing up. When your arms reach your chest, turn your fingers toward the ground and continue the movement.
6. When your arms reach your knees, you should be squatting.
7. Continue the movements, now rising with each right movement until you reach the standing position. When your arms reach your chest, switch the direction of your fingers so that they’re pointing up again.
Throughout this exercise, your hands should produce an S-shaped movement and your body should do a rhythmic belly dance. Remember to inhale on the rightward movement and exhale to the left. Only do this exercise on an empty stomach. Begin slowly and increase speed, warming up the whole body, but not to the point of perspiration.
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Exercise 2: Arm Swing
Energy exercises like tai chi and Eight Treasures Qigong have been found to improve cardiovascular health. Here is the Arm Swing, a warm-up movement to tai chi that will invigorate your daily workout.
1. Start with your feet should-width apart. Freely swing your arms from front to back until you reach a point of natural resistance. Now let your arms swing to the front again.
2. After a couple of minutes of arm swinging, increase the work out by bending your knees and lifting your heels as your arms swing back and forth.
3. Increase your work out further by jumping off the ground as your arms swing back as though the momentum of your arms carries your body upward. Jump progressively higher each time. Swing your arms for 15 minutes. Gradually slow down and stop. Perform this exercise twice each day.
Exercise 3: Merry-Go-Around
With a daily practice of Qi Gong exercises like the Eight Treasures you can strengthen your hormonal system, help balance your blood sugar levels, and maintain your proper weight. Below I describe a simple walking exercise called “Merry-Go-Around”.
1. In a quiet outdoor setting find a thick-trunked tree (10 - 12” diameter) with at least 5 feet of clear space around the trunk in all directions. Perform the following walking exercise for 15 minutes.
2. Walk with a relaxed but steady gait, with hands raised to your trunk. With each completed circle change the position of your arms by slightly raising or lowering your hands in front or on the sides of your trunk.
3. For the first half of the exercise walk clockwise around the tree. For the second half, walk counterclockwise.
Do the Merry-Go-Around twice each day.
How often should you exercise?
From my clinical experience and research, I am convinced that it is best for all-around health to exercise 4 or more times per week, for 30 minutes each time. Even a brisk walk around your neighborhood, or the merry-go-round circle walking described above can have a wonderful effect on your energy metabolism and help you get back into shape.
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I hope this article helps you get active! I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.
May you live long, live strong, and live happy!
This blog is meant to educate, but it should not be used as a substitute for personal medical advice. The reader should consult his or her physician or clinician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field is ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.
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To learn more about Dr. Mao and other natural health tips, go to askdrmao.com.
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