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Come January, gyms are flooded with people starting their New year's resolution to get more exercise and lose weight. But while many think working out has to mean an all-out grueling exercise regimen, according to Chinese Medicine, intense exercise this time of year can do more harm than good.

In Chinese Medicine speak, excessive activity can weaken the kidneys, which are the source of our life force and are meant to be protected during the winter. Drained Kidney Qi can leave us feeling exhausted and prone to illness and injury. Chinese Medicine also advises against excessive sweating in winter, which can open the pores and expose us to getting sick.

On a physiological level, frequent heavy work-outs can stress the body by spiking cortisol which, over time, can make the the body believe it’s in an ongoing dangerous situation. To survive, it tries to conserve energy by lowering metabolism and storing fat. The adrenals burn out, leading to symptoms like fatigue, poor sleep, cravings and mood changes.

The good news is that exercise doesn’t need to be all or nothing - we don’t have to choose between being total couch blobs or boot-camp fanatics.

We do need movement for physical and mental well being, but the truth is that our bodies naturally slow down in winter, just like the rest of nature.

Plus, weight loss is much more complex than the calories in - calories burned model, and health and fitness are measured by other factors than just the number on the scale.

Gentle movement can provide many health benefits such as:

  • promote blood and lymph circulation

  • boost digestion and immune system

  • lubricate, stretch and stabilize joints

  • benefit the skin and complexion

  • reduce stress, improve energy and mood

  • and help with weight loss, just to name a few…

The best type of exercise is enjoyable and easy to incorporate into your routine. Examples include:

  • Qi gong (slow, flowing movement with breath that boosts energy, strength, balance, coordination and flexibility)

  • yoga, especially restorative or yin yoga

  • walking or hiking in nature

  • pilates, barre, and dance


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