Build Your Kidney Qi: How To Exercise In Winter

1509225_10202443954155388_1998525297_nIf you’re a regular reader, you know that winter is the season to strengthen your energetic reserves, and build your vitality by slowing down as presented in the post Winter: The Season of the Kidneys.

Chinese medicine has specific recommendations for when  to exercise during the winter months, which I cover in the post: Exercise According to Yin And Yang.  But how are we supposed to exercise in the winter months and continue the juicy work of regenerating our energetic reserves?

This question depends a lot on you, the individual.  If after reading this post, you feel you need a more in-depth assessment of how to exercise in the winter without depleting your resources, then I recommend finding a local acupuncturist to feel your pulse, assess your tongue, and help guide you in nutritive exercise for the rest of the winter.

In general, winter is a time to slow down. It does not mean to stop exercising, but to try to take your sweating down a notch. Try to focus more on exercise that cause your muscles to tug on your bones than ending up panting and drenched in sweat. Remember your kidney meridians are in charge of your bones, so by shifting a focus to bone-tugging, muscle tone from high intensity cardio or other sweat provoking exercises, will help nourish the energetic storehouse of your kidneys–not to mention help protect your bone density.

Winter exercises such as cross country skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing and snowboarding are also great exercises. Remember to dress with the right number of layers, and try to keep sweating to a sheen on the skin, as opposed to working so hard you are drenching every article of clothing. Getting outside, when dressed properly, helps your body to get the most out of each season– including the winter.

Instructor Courtney Morgan of Revolver Yoga Studio demonstrates a simple lunge yoga pose from her yin yoga class

Exercise that gently tugs on your bones:

  • Yoga
  • Tai qi
  • Pilates
  • Swimming
  • Weight training with free weights (keep to  lower weight with more reps during the winter, amp it up if you like in the spring)

You can still get a pretty solid workout from any of the above exercise styles. Depending on your tai qi or yoga class, you will still sweat. Ideally, in winter, the sweat is a light sheen on our skin, not dripping onto the floor or running down our temples and back.  You can still get your heart rate elevated and tone your muscles without being drenched. Save the drenching workouts for the rest of the year. Also consider the link between incorporating muscle-tugging-on-bone exercises into your regular routine, as this protects your bone density by cueing your body to keep your osteoblasts active (osteoblasts are the cells that synthesize bone).  Osteoblasts function on cues, so if you are not actively doing weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercises, you will slowly decrease the activity of your osteoblasts allowing bone health to slowly weaken. Check out the National Osteoporosis Foundation’s link to their article: Exercise For Strong Bones. 

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