Pain is seen as stagnation/ stuckness of essential substances like blood and your body’s vital energy. The theory is extended to emotional pain. And long term chronic conditions are thought to always contain an element of blood stagnation. Techniques from oriental medicine which seek to promote circulation/ remove stagnation in the body would include needling cupping, gua sha and specialized movement therapies like Tai Chi/ Chi Kung.
Exercise is an inexpensive to free way of invigorating the qi and blood. We’ve all experienced the opposite: neck back or leg pain because of long hours at a desk, in front of a computer or reading a book.
Different exercises are appropriate to different people or the same people at different ages. After forty for example, the wear and tear of long slow distance running may outweigh the benefits.
Dr. Andrew Weil has pointed this out. Secondly from the perspective of Chinese Medicine, there is a difference between being fit and being healthy. Fitness is seen as an external condition of the skeletal or voluntary muscles. You are fit if you can run fast jump high or lift large amounts of weight. Being healthy has more to do with organ fitness: what is the condition of your organs, your endocrine or immune system?
A professional athlete may be very fit but internally weakened do to exhaustion. Conversely an individual may be considered healthy based on their resistance to disease, quality of digestion, eliminative functions, energy level, outlook on life, quality of sleep etc. even though they are not trained to run ten miles or lift two hundred pounds. Of course the ideal would be to be fit and healthy or exhibit fitness both internally and externally.
There are body centered practices which go, or can go beyond exercise. I make this distinction based on the ability of these practices to both require and increase awareness and ‘presence’. Walking on a treadmill while blasting an ipod, or spinning while watching the news does not increase awareness. Movement arts like tai chi and yoga among others have goals which transcend fitness and the mind or intention is placed squarely on what one is doing in the moment (body awareness).
Tai Chi was originally a martial art and has also been classified as a moving meditation. My first teacher called it the Dance of the Universe in miniature. It has very real benefits to health and fitness level including increased blood oxygen level, joint rehabilitation, strength training for the legs and for seniors a 48 percent decrease in injury from falls. The AARP recommends Tai Chi for prevention of hip fractures.