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Traditional Chinese Medicine Causes of Illness

Lack of Exercise

A balanced life, with                              both exercise and rest, is                                            important for good health.
A balanced life, with both exercise and rest, is important for good health.

Too little exercise can lead to stagnation of qi and blood and, subsequently, a variety of degenerative diseases, including obesity, cancer, and heart disease. Moderate exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and stimulates the flow of blood and lymph, the body's filtration system, which filters out toxins. In fact, exercise is the only way to pump lymph through the body, since lymph isn't powered by the heart. Some of the traditional Chinese ideas about lack of exercise are expressed in the ancient texts:

"Sleeping or lying down too much hurts the qi." When a person oversleeps, he typically feels tired all day.


"Too much sitting hurts the muscles." This refers to the fact that lack of exercise causes the muscles to atrophy.

"A running stream doesn't go bad." Stagnant water easily becomes spoiled, and stagnant qi and blood can lead to many different illnesses.

On the other hand, too much activity can hurt the body. This is especially true if a person is fighting a cold or is already depleted and in need of rest. In these cases, almost any exercise can drain the qi. Some of the traditional ideas about excessive activity:

"Using the eyes too much hurts the blood." Since the eyes are intimately connected with the liver, excessive use of the eyes can drain that organ. The liver stores the blood, so stressing it in this way depletes the blood supply.

"Too much standing hurts the bones." People who must stand all day at work, especially on a concrete floor, can vouch for the truth of this statement. Some of the conditions that can be caused by standing too much are sore feet, painful joints, and varicose veins.

"Too much walking hurts the tendons." Tendinitis is a very common condition, especially among runners. Computer work and repetitive stress injuries are also frequent causes of tendon injury.

"Too much work for the heart injures the spirit (shen)." Since the heart is the seat of the mind, too much mental work affects the spirit. It is important to get sufficient physical exercise to avoid this imbalance.

"Too much work for the liver hurts the blood." The liver blood can also be depleted by too much work, as can be seen in marathon runners who no longer have menstrual periods. When they ease up on their workouts, their menstrual periods usually return.

"Too much work for the kidneys hurts the essence (jing)." Each individual has a different capacity for sexual activity, depending on their age and their constitution. Overindulgence in sexual activity, however, can lead to a depletion of the kidneys, causing fatigue and chronic pain in the low back.

Go to the next page to learn about other causes of illness in traditional Chinese medicine.

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