The Chinese Secret to Long Life

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November 03, 2007 | 87,510 views

With all the horrid stories about China’s lack of food standards, dangerous lead-laced toys, environmental abuses, exorbitant pollution, and widespread poverty, it may surprise you to find out that China boasts a life expectancy surprisingly close to that of the United States.

Even more surprisingly, they manage this feat while paying a fraction of the healthcare cost per capita, compared to the United States and the rest of the Western world. China spends a mere $277 per capita, whereas the United States, which has by far the highest level of health care spending, pays nearly $6,100 per capita.

What impact does the U.S. health care spending have on Americans‘ life expectancy?

U.S. life expectancy is about 78 years – one of the lowest life expectancies among developed nations. Lower than Cuba’s, and just marginally higher than Slovenia, according to figures from the United Nations.

China’s life expectancy lies around 73 years, which includes the high infant mortality rate of the rural areas. According to the Chinese Municipal Center for Disease Control, the life expectancy in cities like Beijing and Shanghai is about 80 years, and Hong Kong comes in with a life expectancy of over 82 years, despite the many health hazards inherent with living in these over-crowded cities.

Clues to the Chinese secret of longevity can be found in the streets, in the form of morning and evening rituals, involving large masses of people of all ages practicing tai-chi, aerobics, games, and even open air ballroom dancing.

Daily exercise is widespread and woven into the Chinese culture, offering more than just a way to burn calories. It also enforces social interaction, limiting the isolation that so often comes with old age in the United States.


My guess is that the Chinese life expectancy would be far higher, and probably surpass the US, if they weren’t smoking so much, or exposed to the intense air and water pollution that is present in much of their country.

Exercise is undoubtedly one of your most important factors in leading a healthy life. Fortunately, it is also something that can be added to almost any lifestyle because there are so many different ways to get your exercise each day. Even if you are struggling with a debilitating illness such as arthritis, osteoporosis, or multiple sclerosis (MS) that makes more common forms of exercise difficult, there are gentle forms of exercise that can help.

Unfortunately, most people who are fatigued, stressed, or who face chronic pain or stiffness tend to lower their activity level instead of adding exercise to their daily routine. More often than not, this is one of the worst things you can do because inactivity can increase your level of lethargy and cause your muscles to become weaker, which can actually increase pain and stiffness.

If exercises such as running are too strenuous for you, lower impact exercises like walking, Tai Chi, and yoga can still give you the physical benefits of exercise, adding higher-quality years to your life.

Tai Chi is a form of Chinese martial arts that works out your entire body through a series of very slow movements. It’s very low impact, making it easy on your body, yet it provides a wide variety of health benefits. Studies have pinpointed several benefits of Tai Chi, as it:

Unless you’ve hunkered below a rock for the past few years, you’re well aware that obesity and diabetes are both rampant health disasters in the United States. But the good news is that if you are obese, diabetic, or both, doing something as simple as starting an exercise program is one of the best things you can do to combat both of these conditions, and improve your overall health.

If you missed my recent article, Could You Live Longer Than 140 Years? I highly recommend you review it now, as it contains both some of the latest scientific theories about longevity, as well as my best recommendations for what you can do, right now, to maximize your overall health to live well, longer.