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Chinese Exercise Therapy for Hypertension

written by: cra8051 • edited by: Lisa Lambson • updated: 7/26/2010

Chinese health exercises have a 2,500-year old tradition. Treating hypertension with Chinese health exercise has been used for the past forty years or so in the West. It may take three months or more before significant results are noted but then lasting decrease in blood pressure can take place.

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    Benefits

    A major benefit of using Chinese exercise (Qigong) for hypertension is the comfortable and relaxed approach this form of exercise takes. Unlike strenuous exercises, which may do more harm than good in cases of blood pressure elevation, Chinese exercise therapy takes the opposite approach. These movements characteristically involve gentle, slow movements and mental concentration. This has the effect of strengthening body systems and relaxing the mind and emotions as well, putting both systems in harmony. Older individuals in particular can derive special benefits from the gentle nature of Chinese health exercise, but the younger benefit as well.

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    Chi Kung for Relaxation

    This Chinese exercise for hypertension can be performed sitting, lying down or standing., For best results begin with the sitting type and then follow this with the standing version. Chi Kung for relaxation is performed by sitting on a comfortable chair or stool and doing breathing exercises. Breathe through the nose naturally with a fixed depth and speed. Use cue words like quiet for every breath taken and relaxed with each exhalation. With each repetition of the word quiet relax a specific part of the body starting with the head, followed by the arms, hands, chest and so on through the body, ending with the feet. After this focus your thoughts with each inhalation on the body’s internal systems—blood vessels, nerves and ending with relaxation of the body organs. Do these exercises for 30 minutes three to four times a day.

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    Chi Kung Standing

    This form of Chinese health exercise also should be combined with positive imagery such as visualizing fresh rain falling or being in a wonderful garden filled with beautiful flowers, fresh-smelling air and wonderful surroundings. As you do this imagining, stand with fee apart and your toes pointing inward very slightly. The knees should be bent slightly. Stand straight up and raise your arms to the level of the shoulders. Now bend your elbows slightly and lower them a bit. Imagine you are putting your arms around a large tree and begin flexing your fingers as if you are lightly squeezing a ball in each hand. While you do this, use the same breathing techniques in the relaxation method, except now focus more on diaphragm breathing, expanding the abdomen during inhalation and contracting during exhalation. Continue these deep breaths until you can slow to between 6 and eight breaths a minute. Do these exercises at least 1 to 2 times a day for 30 minutes at a time.

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    Chinese exercise for hypertension can provide long term benefits to the body without over stressing aging muscles and joints. It can also work well with middle-aged or even young people.
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    Tai Chi Chuan

    Another beneficial Chinese health exercise for hypertension is Tai Chi. Several specific movements are helpful for treating high blood pressure. These combine breathing as in Chi Kung for Relaxation at the start but just for 6 to 8 slow in and out breaths. Then stand up and spread your legs apart to shoulder width. Now swing your arms back and forward, alternating so while one arm goes back, the other goes forward and vice-versa. Do this for 100 repetitions, which should take just 2 to 3 minutes.

    Next, sit down again and bend your head forward, then backward, then tilted to the left and then the right. Finish by turning your head first left and then right. Repeat this sequence 8 to 10 times. For the next step standup again and do some stretching exercises. Twist your body to the left with the left arm raised and pointing backward. Bring that arm down and do the same thing on the right side, repeating each sequence 8 to 10 times. Finish the session by moving the left foot forwards and stretching your arms overhead. Now do the same stretch with your right foot forward. Repeat each movement 8 to 10 times.

    While it probably will take anywhere from three to five months for full benefit, these exercises can be combined with medication if needed. Chinese health exercises are a lifetime practice and provide multiple benefits; simply stopping after a brief initial blood pressure reduction will not provide the long term benefits needed.

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    Disclaimer

    Please read this disclaimer regarding the information you have just read.

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    Research Studies

    Cheung, BM et al. “Randomized controlled trial of qigong in the treatment of mild essential hypertension." Journal of Human Hypertension, 2005 Sep; 19(9):697-704.

    Gui, X, et al. “Clinical effect of qigong practice on essential hypertension: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials." Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2008 Jan-Feb; 14(1):27-37.

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