To help usher in the Year of the Horse, Chien Wen-jen, a physical therapist at Cathay General Hospital, publicly announced on Jan. 21 his Year of the Horse-themed calisthenics, designed to bring good luck in the Lunar New Year. He recommends that everyone do the calisthenic exercises for five minutes in the morning and evening over the Spring Festival break. If the movements are done accurately, an adult weighing 60kg can burn around 360 extra calories a day, Chien says.
Chien has been promoting exercise for good health for many years. For the past 13 years, he has designed unique Chinese-zodiac inspired calisthenics every Lunar New Year for good luck. For this year’s health-savvy calisthenics, Chien has designed a set of four exercises, which can help you thoroughly work on flexibility, muscle strength, balance and cardio, he says.
The first form — “horse stance for ushering guests to their seats” — consists of spreading your feet out twice the width of your shoulders and squatting down in a horse stance, with your hands in the air facing the same direction as your body and moving back and forth from side to side as if you are ushering guests to their seats.
This formation helps increase the strength and endurance of your lower body. Moving the body from side to side can strengthen your hip muscles and stretch your hip and spine. Sticking your hands out and turning them back and forth helps increase agility in your joints.
The second form — “horse raises up, people turning over to mend mistakes” — is comprised of a firm stance with your right foot raised up and kicking while your body is bent back slightly. Your arms should be out toward the side of your body, repeatedly crossing them in front of your chest and then extending them out again. Pay attention to balance as you jump up and down on your left foot. Switch sides and repeat. This form is meant to train your dynamic equilibrium. The degree to which you lean back depends on your own condition and should not be forced. Only kicking and not leaning back is fine.
In the third form — “the horse that keeps galloping in rhythm” — it looks like one hand is holding the saddle while the other holds a whip. You alternately hop on your tiptoes. You can jump up and down in one spot, hop back and forth, or from left to right, as long as you keep a steady rhythm.
This form improves cardiovascular fitness and can help improve balance. You can start out doing 30-second sets and gradually work your way up to three minutes. Starting out, the movement can consist of the tips of your feet not leaving the ground, squatting with your knees bent and eventually advance to both feet leaving the ground while you hop.
In the fourth form — “the horse arrives successfully, celebrating everywhere” — your feet are spread apart twice the width of your shoulders and your hands are extended out next to your body, with palms facing up and squatting in a horse stance. Turn left 90 degrees, with the lead foot pointing straight and your leg bent slightly, while the trailing foot is angled outward. With your hands still out at your side, yell out three times. Turn 90 degrees in the opposite direction and repeat. Turn four times in all, repeating everything four times.