- Aging & Longevity
Exercising for Energy and Life Expectancy
Exercise Increases Energy Levels As Well As Health
Surprise, surprise! Exercise improves your health. But everyone already knows that, right? What you also need to know is that exercise also increases your energy levels. So, exercising is a win-win situation -you feel better, you can do more things and you increase your odds of having good health. Doing regular exercise is definitely worth the effort.
This article discusses minimum exercise guidelines mentioned in a 2008 U.S. Government report; but it also goes much further, discussing recent research results and gives more information on walking and qigong exercises. Both of these exercises confer many health benefits. Qigong is notable, however, in that it can increase breathing capacity, flexibility, tranquility, energy levels and one's sense of well-being. The Chinese also revere qigong for its ability to confer a longer life. If you are new to qigong, please refer to support articles on HubPages: "About Qigong" and "What is Qigong." These pages have videos and explanations that help beginners understand essential basics about these ancient and very effect effective types of exercise that originated in China.
Government Guidelines for Physical Activity In A Nutshell
The report, published by the U. S. Dept. of Health and Human services says that you need 150 minutes of exercise per week. This translates into 30 minutes of exercise for a 5-day work week. What is good about this recommendation is that it emphasizes the need for regular exercise, not just exercise in the weekend warrior mode - which can lead to injuries and excess stress on your cardiovascular system.
So, getting into a regular habit of exercise is needed for optimum health, energy and longevity. The report doesn't say these things explicitly; rather, it says if you do moderate to vigorous aerobic activity for the specified amount of time, there is strong evidence for avoiding premature death and moderate evidence for avoiding energy-draining mental states like depression and anxiety.
Walking Exercise Is Preferred By Adults
The Minimum Amount of Physical Activity Required for Benefitting Health
Studies published since 2008 indicate that you need at least 15 minutes of light to moderate exercise per day, 5 days a week, to keep fit and avoid many different types of medical conditions including the mental disorders mentioned above. And, for every 15 minutes more you exercise per day, there is an incremental increase in your health condition. There seems to be an upper limit of 100 min per day, however, as found in a large study by Wen, et al (2011, cited below). So, past this point, there is no documented evidence of health benefit.
Other findings of the Wen study is that a 20 minutes per day regimen (as compared to an inactive group) significantly decreases all-cause mortality and cancer mortality risk. People in the age 30 group increase their life span from 2-3 years as well. Upping the amount to 30 minutes per day results in another year or so of life span, both for men and women.
Walking for Good Health.
While some adults do aerobic exercises in the gym, most prefer walking as a way of keeping fit. You don't have to do competitive walking as you see in the Olympics. The Wen study used walking as a light exercise activity and it did confer measurable health benefits. But, brisk walking seems to be best, as found the in study by Anton, et. al. Brisk walking gets the heart rate up and helps exercise your lungs. So it is a better cardiovascular activity and it cuts the amount of effective exercise time in half.
Brisk walking is not recommended for everyone. For instance, if you are just starting a routine after a lengthy period of inactivity, beginning slowly is better. Then, week by week, you can increase the pace. It is also important to check with your doctor if you have health limitations on beginning any exercise program if you have been sick or have been inactive for quite a while.
Qigong Exercises for Health and Energy
Mental and muscular tension, also commonly known as stress, robs people of a lot of their energy. If one can learn to relax and do exercises in a relaxed manner, this will help increase your energy levels. The longevity arts of qigong and tai chi, which can also have martial arts applications, originated in China. These exercises that allow you to achieve health in a relaxed, unforced manner.
The art known as qigong can be interpreted to mean "energy work." But in order to do energy work, you have to learn how to relax your body - otherwise it ends up being regular exercise. Thus, there are many methods that qigong masters use to teach their students how to get in touch with the body and release muscular tension. The mind is an important part of this process as well, in the sense that if it isn't relaxed, then the muscles in the body will not relax either.
You can also find interpretations of qigong as meaning "breath work," because the breath is synonymous with energy in Taoist philosophy. The breath is used as a vehicle for relaxation and it allows one access to observe and change breathing, which is a normally subconscious processes. Meditation methods like following the breath help improve concentration and breathing and, once learned, are integrated into movement exercises.
Two videos below illustrate some static postures and swing qigong movements that are used to help relax the body, develop balance and promote energy development. The first one is a video I made of myself doing some qigong exercises in 2009 and the second one shows Dr. Mark Wiley doing a demonstration. For those who wish for more instruction on static postures, or standing meditation, click on this link and read an in-depth article on standing qigong.
Some of the easy-to-do, but very beneficial exercises of "Opening the Energy Gates" are demonstrated in the first video below. There are sections on standing meditation, cloud hands and three swing movements, as well as abundant background by this Taoist Lineage Master. The best part about this book are the clear explanations.
A Demonstration of Standing Qigong Postures and Swings
Dr. Mark Wiley Demonstrates Static Posture and Swings
Resources for Further Reading
Anton, S. D., et al. 2011. How much walking is needed to improve cardiorespiratory fitness? An Examination of the 2008 Physical Fitness Guidelines for Americans. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 82: 365-370.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008. Physical activity guidelines for Americans.
Wen, C. P., et al. 2011. Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study. Lancet 378(9798):1244-53