Exercise and Eastern Medicine

Exercise Benefits for Both Mental and Physical Health

Healthy Living Blog by Dr. Tetreault


The Eastern medicine focus with exercise ties in deep cleansing breaths with circulation connecting mind aka shen and body. The shen in Eastern medicine refers to the mind but correlates with the heart. Both are affected by the other. Breath and body movement together with exercise can take effect whether it be tai chi, qi gong, yoga, or other forms of martial arts, swimming or walking briskly. We know exercise is also critical for reducing risk of cardiopulmonary disease. This can be accomplished with a brisk walk thirty minutes a day where you are breathing hard but still able to carry on a conversation. Experts state that 150 minutes a week is needed to keep the heart strong. This can be accomplished not only from brisk walking but also jump roping or biking, etc..

Though the benefits of exercise are well known, excess can cause kidney and liver deficiency and promote early aging. This is often seen in early osteoporosis, lumbar, knee, or hip arthritic pain, hair-loss or overall premature aging. Light to moderate exercise builds up good energy yet too much can be depleting of both qi and blood.  So it can be counterintuitive if overdone. Proper care should also be taken when recovering from sports injuries as well. Yet with the rate of obesity and cardiopulmonary disease along with mental health issues nationwide, we have to look at the stasis or blockage of energy as the origin of many diseases and is often caused by the lack of movement.

In Eastern medicine perspective, the lack of proper exercise causes phlegm and dampness to accumulate in the body which weakens the spleen. The lack of proper blood flow creates both energy and blood stagnation, this in turn effects the collaterals, vessels, and ultimately the organ’s function. The mind is also affected by dampness and phlegm which can also cause poor mental health. This can be seen in feeling foggy headed, depressed, having insomnia, feeling a lack of joy. Being physically active can resolve many blockages and restore the free flow of energy which may be lacking or stagnated.

It is best to combine both yang and yin style exercises in your lifestyle for the best balance. Yin exercises include the yoga, tai chi, pilates, qi gong, walking, deep stretching, gardening, light weights with repetitions and many others. Yang style is more active like running, aerobics, boxing, ball sports, and moderate weight lifting. Swimming and dancing can be both styles dependent on how rigorous. Though the yin are most recommended, there are times to incorporate yang style based off of individual need and constitution. The best indicator is that we listen to our own body’s needs. Yin style exercises are nourishing in nature and are recommended especially in cases of deficiency or exhaustion. If one has pent up anger or frustration, then the yang exercises can be releasing.

Traditional Chinese Medicine sees mental health disorders as abnormal energy flow. This can often lead to both physical and mental disorders. Heart, liver, and spleen energy are often tied in with emotional disorders. Over time, the lungs can be affected as well. Connecting with nature by outdoor activities can provide the essential beginnings of clearing the mind, nourishing the heart blood along with adequate exercise. This can start with simple stretching, long walks, or tai chi. When the condition becomes chronic, the practitioner stimulates certain ear and scalp points or organ back shu points are incorporated. Herbal formulas may be prescribed to soothe the liver, nourish the heart blood and spleen energy, and promote calmness.

exerciseSo if you wait to feel better to exercise, you should actually switch that around. Once you start performing cleansing breaths with stretching, nature walks, and much more, then you will start to notice you are feeling better. Many herbal formulas and acu points are used in Eastern Medicine to treat depression by calming shen and nourish heart blood which directly relates to the mind. Endorphins are released and the central nervous system is strengthened which enhances mood, energy, and promotes an overall sense of well-being.

Our bodies require proper nutrition, both clean water and air, rest, as well as breath enhanced movement. Both yin and yang should be in balance. Exercise should be used to promote good health both mentally and physically. With tai chi or qi gong, muscles and tendons are activated and controlled by the breath which shows good discipline of the mind. This is both nourishing and restoring for mind and body. These exercises performed regularly not only promote healthy circulation but help regulate internal organs. Quality of life is improved and kidney essence is strengthened which correlates to longevity. This ultimately allows the body and mind to work optimally even in old age.

So remember body and mind are and should be connected. Ancient Eastern Medicine has always been aware of this. Western medicine is just catching up to the benefits of mind and body connection and how one affects the other whether through exercise, deep breathing, or meditation. Call today to have your assessment and let’s take the journey together to optimize your health, both mind and body. Call 772-626-6419