What Is Chi Gong?
‘Chi’ is the vital force, the life force that is transmitted by the breath. “Gong’ can be translated as exercise. So chi gong provides exercises that maximize the benefits of healthy breathing. The great news for seniors is that there are literally hundreds of simple exercises that maximize the benefits of breath and chi. Many exercises can be done while sitting in a chair or even lying down.
What Are the Benefits of Doing Chi Gong?
- Blood Oxygen Levels Improve
Doing Chi Gong on a regular basis improves one’s blood oxygen levels. We need to have oxygen levels of 90% or above. Doing Chi Gong immediately improves one’s blood oxygen saturation.
- Better Muscle Tone
This is especially important for the elderly who may be sedentary. Doing simple chi gong exercises on a regular basis improves muscle tone. Like yoga, the improvements are clear and almost immediate.
- Feelings of Physical Well-being
One may notice an overall improvement in physical well-being. You just feel better. When you feel good physically, all of your life feels better.
Doing Chi Gong With Physical Impairments
Trouble standing? Problems that keep you in a wheelchair? Bedridden? No problem. All the exercises I will be offering can be done sitting and even lying in a bed. In this first column, I will offer two simple exercises that can be done standing, sitting, or even lying in a bed. Like any exercise, however, the benefits will only be realized by those who do them on a regular basis. Make a commitment to do these exercises at least once a day and preferably twice a day.
Exercise One - Two Hands Reach the Sky
Standing, sitting, or lying in a bed, Slowly, while breathing in through the nose, raise both hands in front of you. Stretch both hands above you. Form claws with your hands at the top. Bring your hands slowly down in front of your face as you breathe out slowly through the nose, grasping the energy from the sky. Let your hands relax as they drop. Finally, spread the energy out to bless the earth. Repeat 7 more times.
Exercise Two - Kidney Rub
Rub your hands together vigorously in front of you while slowly breathing in and out through the nose. Now wash your face without touching it. Next, repeat rubbing your hands together. Finally, reach around your back as best you can, forming two loose fists and rub your kidney area with a circular motion. Repeat 7 more times.
Chair Exercises For Seniors
We've discussed fitness and the importance of health in several articles for this blog. But, one thing that we have not discussed is what to do if the person you are caring for is physically compromised in such a way as to make being active very difficult or impossible. In these cases, many people choose to become more & more inactive. This only exasperates the situation & often creates new muscle problems and degrades the strength of the individual. Consider chair exercises as an alternative form of fitness. You might find yourself to be surprised at the range of exercises available while sitting in a chair.
Who can benefit? Anyone! Those who have had surgery recently can benefit greatly from seated exercises without danger of falling to re-injure themselves. Those who are easily dizzy or unstable because of health issues can benefit. Those who no longer have the strength to stand for short amounts of time will find help. Those whose joints ache, or are so stiff that range of motion is affected & standing is unbearable will find the exercises helpful. Those who have none of these issues, but would like a different type of fitness routine can also benefit from a varied workout.
What type of chair to use? A stable chair is imperative. Any kind will do, really, as long as it is stable. Stay away from dainty chairs or those with wheels for obvious reasons. Also, stay away from recliners or deeper chairs as these can inhibit movement & be so inviting as to draw you into themselves and make it much more difficult to do the exercises.
Where to find the exercises? Look online first if you have a computer. YouTube has a good selection of chair exercise videos available for you to watch. Public television stations are another place to look. They will often have exercise videos available for public viewing at certain times on certain days. Check with your local station for the names & times that shows like that are aired. One such show is called, “Sit and Be Fit”.
Find out if there are classes nearby. If you call your local clinic, they may be able to tell you where chair exercise classes are held in your area, if any exist. It can be a nice change to workout with other individuals, for encouragement & social interaction with others who are going through similar things.
How will it help? By staying active, the person you care for will benefit in numerous ways. Range of motion should be improved greatly as they complete the stretches and exercises. Joint stiffness can be alleviated as they work out. Endorphins will be released in the body to improve mood & relieve stress. Muscle strength will be improved. Bone density can be improved with resistance training. Blood circulation will improve as the body is moving.
These exercises are not going to prepare anyone for a 5K or for climbing Everest. They will, however, help to improve quality of life in individuals who can use them as a workout plan themselves or as a stepping stone on their road to recovery. Fitness is important. Let's encourage it!