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Exercise is vital to our health and well being. Our ancestors didn’t have to worry about this too much because their work was also exercise. Working the fields and growing food is definitely a form of exercise but today we have become much more domestic and industrious, especially here in the west. Many of us have jobs that don’t allow us to move physically the way we need to and we use cars to transport ourselves from one place to another. Now this lack of movement will cause our energy to become stagnant in our bodies. Now this stagnant energy, if not released, will not only affect you physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Not only will you not think as clearly, you will also tend to feel more tense and anxious which can then lead to melancholy or depression. It’s a vicious circle. So exercise is important in all aspects of our life. Now there are many forms of exercise and depending on your gender, body constitution, ailments and age, you should pick an appropriate exercise for yourself.
Now if you are younger and do not have any chronic disease, you have more energy and so running and playing sports is good. Young people have tons of energy and it needs to be released so letting them go out and play and expend all that energy is important. Even for the parent it’s good to make sure that your children get adequate exercise so that they can sleep better which means that you can have a little more time to relax or take naps.
However, if your body constitution is not that strong or if you have a chronic disease, picking a more moderate exercise is better. This also holds true for middle and senior aged people. Moderate exercises like tai chi, qi gong and yoga are strengthening to the body without causing all the wear and tear on your joints like running or weight lifting. Running and weight lifting should be done less and less as we get older so listen to your body and give up these exercises when your body tells you to.
I just want to write a little more about the benefits of tai chi chuan as I am a strong proponent for this exercise. Tai chi chuan, especially for the elderly, can be the most powerful exercise to maintaining health and well being. Studies have shown that elderly aged people have significantly less falls when practicing tai chi. This is probably due to the fact that tai chi strengthens your lower body and increases balance, flexibility and coordination. Studies have also shown tai chi decreases blood pressure. Furthermore, tai chi creates a meditative and calming affect on the mind and relieves stress. In addition, chronic pain, especially lower back pain, subsides for many when practicing tai chi. People often express having more energy, better sleep and a sense of over all well being when practicing tai chi. You won’t feel tired and exhausted after doing tai chi like so many exercises here in the west. Rather, you will feel strong and more grounded after practicing tai chi. Couple this with stretching or yoga and you will feel great. You should give yourself at least six weeks of practice to see some results. Once you see the benefits you won’t stop.
Another powerful exercise I have recently become quite fond of is Yi Quan(Da Cheng Chuan). It is a subtle, but powerful exercise. The founder of Yi Quan, Wang Xianzhai, stated that “slower movement is better than faster movement and no movement is better than slow movement”. Intuitively, this sounded right to me although I couldn’t articulate why if you asked me. Through practice, I have come to realize that Yi Quan, which is standing Qi Gong, strengthens and calms the body, mind and spirit. Wang Xianzhai philosophy was that “action originates in inaction and stillness is the mother of movement”. Yi Quan in its very root is Taoist. The health benefits Yi Quan are phenomenal. Obstructions which cause illness and disease are relieved with regular practice. Simultaneously, your body is getting stronger.
However, the most important thing is that you move. If you don’t like tai chi or yoga then try walking. Walking is a natural exercise that will help release tension and strengthen the body. Remember that in whatever exercise you choose to do, not to push yourself too much. Listen to your body. Many of us here in the west think more is better but if your body tells you to take it easy, please listen!

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