7 of the Best Kept Healthy Habits From the Far East

Some of these practices might seem unusual to Westerners, but their health benefits are undeniable.

Nov 28, 2018

Thousands of years before modern medicine, the civilizations of the Far East began developing health and medicinal practices still in use today. Centuries later, the ancient customs continue to permeate Eastern cultures. You can still see people harnessing their “Qi” in the park as their ancestors did.

While, first-timers in the Far East might find it unusual to see martial arts in the park, sit in a squatted position for hours or eat pig’s feet, these customs have hidden health benefits that could unlock the secrets to longevity.

1. Drink Plenty of Tea

When visiting countries in the Far East, you won’t see nearly as many people drinking coffee. They would much rather stay hydrated and nourished with hot tea. People tote their green or oolong tea in a glass thermos to sip while on the go. (It’s so popular that they even have green tea potato chips!) And why not? Studies show that tea has tremendous health benefits. Those who drink one cup of green tea reduce the risk of stroke by as much as 35%! Not to mention, it helps with weight loss, protects bones, boosts the immune system, and promotes heart health. So gānbēi (that's "drink up" in Mandarin)

2. Don’t Sit Down. Squat.

Lately, the detriments of sitting throughout the day have become a hot-button issue. (Hence, the growing popularity of the standing desk). It seems in the Far East, they knew about this long before the rest of us caught on. Go to the Far East, and rather than sitting down, you’ll see people squatting for minutes… or even hours!  While not easy at first, it has tons of health benefits. It works many muscles including stretching the thighs, calves, hamstrings and glute muscles, increases flexibility, corrects back problems, and strengthens core muscles. And, as evidenced by the squatty potties all over the region, it may even be the healthier way to go to the bathroom. So can you master the Asian squat?

3. Stay Out of the Sun

Anyone from the East would get a shock to see their friends from the west sunbathing for hours. That’s because Asian cultures tend to stay out of the sun whenever possible. UV rays from the sun can cause aging, dehydration, sunburn, and skin cancer. Who said umbrellas were only for the rain? If you come from the Far East, you may use one to shade yourself from the heat and stay out of the sun.

4. Eat the Whole Animal

Walking through an Asian market, you might come across chicken feet or pig’s ears for sale. While you may cringe at the thought of eating the 'nasty' bits, consuming the entire animal, nose to tail, has many health benefits. Offal has many nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, B vitamins, and magnesium. Skin and bones also provide a great source of glycine, the anti-aging amino acid found in collagen that strengthens joints and bones. Besides, eating the whole animal wastes less, and as the saying goes, “waste not, want not!”

5. Choose Warm Water Over Cold

Believe it or not, drinking iced tea or cold water seems very funny to most from the Far East where they go for lukewarm or hot beverages instead. Why? Well, cold water does have its benefits in the heat, but warm or room temperature water helps relieve congestion, detoxifies the body, and naturally relieves pain (including joint and menstrual cramps). According to ancient Chinese medicine, drinking warm water in the morning also activates the digestive system and stimulates blood flow.

6. Stay Fit, No Matter How Old You Are

Walking through a city or park in China, you are bound to come across groups of elderly people practicing Tai Chi, a low-impact, slow-paced form of martial arts. The activity involves balancing someone’s “Qi”, or internal life force, through movement and meditation.  Researchers found that older people who regularly perform this traditional Chinese “mind and body” technique benefit from lower blood pressure and better heart health.

7. Eat More Fish

From sushi to dried fish bones, the diets of the Far East are rich in seafood. While it might not help your breath any, eating fish and seafood does wonders for your mind and body. Seafood comes packed with vitamins and minerals. Fish and shellfish also contain omega-3 fatty acids, a major building block of the brain that promotes heart health balances hormones and reduces depression.

ALLISON MICHELLE DIENSTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Working from her laptop as a freelance writer, Allison lives as a digital nomad, exploring the world while sharing positivity and laughter. She is a lover of language, travel, music, and creativity with a degree in Chinese language and literature.

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