Excellent physical condition is not equivalent to good health. Arnold Schwarzenegger needed to have a heart valve replaced. Jean-Claude Van Damme, a famous martial arts actor, suffers from a hearing loss.
Chronic training for and competing in extreme endurance events such as marathons, ultra-marathons, ironman distance triathlons, and very long distance bicycle races, can cause transient acute volume overload of the atria and right ventricle, with transient reductions in right ventricular ejection fraction and elevations of cardiac biomarkers, all of which return to normal within 1 week. Over months to years of repetitive injury, this process, in some individuals, may lead to patchy myocardial fibrosis, particularly in the atria, interventricular septum, and right ventricle, creating a substrate for atrial and ventricular arrhythmias. Additionally, long-term excessive sustained exercise may be associated with coronary artery calcification, diastolic dysfunction, and large-artery wall stiffening (1).
Any type of exercise that requires a movement to be repeated many times can also lead to repetitive strain injuries and eventually arthritis.
Lifting more than half your body weight can raise your systolic pressure to 370 millimeters mercury. (Normal systolic pressure is below 120 and normal diastolic pressure, measured as the heart rests between beats, is below 80.). Recent research indicates that the increased pressure may cause an aortic dissection, in which the heart’s main artery tears. This requires immediate surgical intervention to stem blood loss resulting in death (2).
Yoga is another popular exercise, frequently recommended to seniors. Today, there are few classical Yoga teachers. Originally, Yoga was a spiritual discipline for enlightenment. It had no connection to health and there were other paths to enlightenment, in addition to the postures or asanas. You could not pay for lessons and only received more instructions if the Guru thought you had made sufficient progress. The common belief is that modern Yoga is safe, especially for seniors. Many injuries resulting from its practice have been documented (3).
Tai Chi has increased in popularity in the western world. It often appears in the background of advertisements of unrelated products. It is recommended for seniors and by the American Arthritis Society, which has its own simplified version. Many health clubs and martial arts studios offer Tai Chi classes.
Unfortunately, Tai Chi has been simplified and distorted just like Yoga. Originally, Tai Chi was a martial art, designed for self-defense with some health benefits. The original form consisted of more than 100 moves. Many shortened versions have been devised. Some do not obey the principals of classical Tai Chi and you would probably obtain the same benefits by walking slowly and waving your arms. Tai Chi is very difficult to learn. Most people don’t have the perseverance and patience to even learn a short form that is taught with the correct postures and principals. More details can be found in (4).
The Nov. 14, 2012, online issue of the J. of the Amer. College of Cardiology, contains a paper about the effects of moderate exercise. Certain biomarkers, which were tied to heart injury that was otherwise undetectable but was associated with a higher risk of death by cardiovascular disease, were used. The study consisted of 2900 subjects over the age of 65. They were tracked for their biomarkers along with their levels of physical activity.
The researchers concluded that not only did the biomarkers lower as physical activity went up, but even moderate amounts of exercise in seniors, dramatically lowered the risk of death by heart attack.
The above research on the effects of moderate exercise lends credence to the remarks of Dr. Oz, M.D., heart surgeon and star of the Doc Oz Show, “If you want to be healthy and live to be 100, practice Qigong.” Qigong (pronounced Chee Kung) is a body/mind/breath coordination discipline, which has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. Clinical trials have verified that Qigong is helpful in about 200 diseases, ranging from the common cold to cancer (5).
Dr. Oz was not just making wild speculations. Recent research has found a way to predict and increase your life span. Tips of chromosomes are called telomeres. These protective caps, made of repetitive chunks of DNA, keep the rest of the gene-laden chromosomes from disastrously unraveling. Telomeres length has been linked to life span. Longer telomeres have been associated with longer lives and vice versa. A cell’s telomeres shorten a bit each time that the cell divides. Telomeres length is decreased by stress and can be increased by reducing stress! Clinical trials have shown that Qigong reduces stress.
Qigong for health is not strenuous requires little coordination and flexibility. It is easier to learn and practice than Tai Chi or Yoga. Qigong can be done lying, sitting or standing. It can be done anywhere, at any time, and requires no special clothing or equipment. Qigong is practiced by millions of people worldwide. It is the recommended exercise for non-athletes, seniors and the physically challenged (5).
Whether we gain, lose or maintain body weight is dependent upon three things: the number of calories: required to maintain life (our metabolism), burned through activity, and consumed.
According to Macdonald’s calorie chart the calories in the following foods are: Big Mac 570, Large French Fries 540, Coca-Cola Classic 410, Salad 35 and Dressing 160. The total calories in such a meal are 1715. Two such similar meals would contain 3,430 calories.
A 150 lb. person sitting for 15 hours (eating, driving, studying, watching television, etc) burns an average of about 130 calories an hour. Hence 15 hours of sitting would burn 1,950 calories. If you sleep for 8 hours, you would burn about 552 calories. Exercising by vigorous cycling (14- 15.9 mph) for an hour would burn about 704 calories. The total calories burned in a day would be 3,104.
Thus, diet and not exercise is the primary factor in losing weight.
Obese people can lose weight, probably due to the increased rate of metabolism, by practicing Senobi breathing. This is a Qigong breathing technique, which is simple to learn and only requires 1 minute of practice before each meal (7).
1. O’Keefe, J.H. et al. Potential Adverse Cardiovascular Effects from Excessive Endurance Exercise. Mayo Clinic Proceedings,
2. Intense Weight Lifting Linked to Fatal Heart Trouble.
3. Eisen, M. What is Yoga? Yoga Therapy. http://yang-sheng.com/?p=3835
4. Eisen, M. Are You Really Studying Tai Chi and Is It Effective for Stress? http://yang-sheng.com/?p=1612
5. Liu, T. and Chen, K. eds. Chinese Medical Qigong, Singing Dragon, London, 2010. 6. Eisen, M. Should You Learn Yoga, Tai Chi or Qigong?
7. Eisen, M. Senobi Breathing Method for Weight Loss and Asthma. http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/senobi-breathing-method-for-weight-loss-and-asthma