Research and exercise
There are numerous research studies confirming the benefits of exercise, yet it is still rarely prescribed by doctors as a treatment to prevent disease. Specific research has shown that exercise lowers the risk of death by 20-30% as well as improving muscular and cardiovascular fitness. There is a way to decrease heart attack chance as well as reduce stroke and enhance weight management while reducing blood sugars, and that is to take up exercise.
In fact there is overwhelming evidence that exercise delays the onset of at least 40 chronic diseases including breast cancer, endometrial cancer, colon cancer, deep vein thrombosis, constipation and depression.
History and exercise
The fact that exercise helps health and prevents disease is not new. Hippocrates in the 5th century BC stated that if “parts of the body are unused and idle, they become liable to disease, defective in growth and age quickly“. It was the ancient Greeks that actually started body building. Yoga has of course also been around for thousands of years and doesn’t need a scientist to tell you that you will get a health benefit from taking it up. Chinese literature from this era and throughout the past two thousand years have written about Tao Yin Yoga stretching, Kung Fu, walking, qi gong ( a form of slow moving meditation) and Tai Chi all of which help prevent disease and promote health.
This article will focus more on the benefits of stretching and later articles will explore the aspects of cardio exercise and the benefits it provides.
The history of stretching can be traced back to ancient Greece, India and China.
Looking at basic yoga literature reveals that doing certain asanas (postures) can result in effecting various health issues. Doing the downward dog asana for example, has a number of health effects, such as improving blood circulation to the head, open sinuses, treat hay fever, helps prevent osteoarthritis and improves posture. Have a read here for more in-depth discussion about this one single posture.
The twelve sinew channels
Chinese medicine has an even more detailed analysis of explaining how the treatment of the musculoskeletal system can have far reaching benefits for many complaints.
Ancient Chinese physicians documented what has become known in the west as the 12 sinew channels. These channels circulate around the entire surface of the body and follow the lines of of the major muscle groups, ligaments and tendons. These sinew channels can be injured by an injury itself BUT can also be penetrated by pathogenic factors such as viruses and bacteria.
How can you treat the 12 sinew channels
They can be treated with acupuncture needles, massage, cupping and guasha (skin scraping) but can also be influenced by stretching and exercise.
Treatment of these sinew channels not only treat injuries but also treat many internal conditions. In fact, each sinew channel has many indications that it can treat. Below is a small list of the many miscellaneous symptoms that could benefit from treating the sinew channels.
What are some symptoms of the 12 sinew channels?
- Spitting of blood
- Toe, middle strained
- Inguinal region swelling
- Spasm, low abdomen to clavicle
- Mouth, sudden deviation
- Heel, swelling
- Eye, if turn right or left and can’t open
- and many various musculoskeletal injury problems
What is interested about looking at this diverse range of miscellaneous symptoms is that it is possible to treat them by exercising and stretching their appropriate sinew channel. In reality though, the real lesson to learn is that by exercising and stretching all the sinew channels on a regular basis will actually benefit the health of the whole body and prevent disease.
What is a specific example of how a sinew channel may be treated?
The longest sinew channel in the body is the Bladder Sinew Channel as illustrated below. It is observed that the channel starts at the foot and finishes at the head. From an acupuncturist perspective, one could needle the piriformis Motor Point on the buttock and treat the neck. Alternatively, one could stretch the hip and buttocks and relieve neck stiffness and pain.
So if the key is exercise and stretching, what do I do?
There are a number of options available. There is of course no shortage of yoga schools and teachers as well as online learning available. If there is specific body area that has chronic pain and stiffness, consultation with a suitably exercise focused physiotherapist who could show you specialized stretches would not go astray. Being Chinese medicine biased, the author suggests a specialized form of Shao Lin stretching that is now being taught in Hawkes Bay by Corey Waterreus. Details of classes can be accessed here.
There is no time like now, to start stretching and improve your health and prevent disease.