Arm swings are an effective warm-up exercise to get your blood flowing, but you can add an element of challenge and enhance the workout with a little modification. In his book on self-healing, Maoshing Ni tells readers that they can increase the workout two or three minutes into an arm swing exercise by lifting the heels and bending at the knees as the arms swing back and forth. After a few minutes more you can make the exercise even more challenging by jumping up as your arms swing, imagining that the momentum of your arms is drawing your body up. Ni advises jumping progressively higher for five minutes then gradually slowing down to a stop.
According to the book "Principles and Practice of Stress Management," not a lot of studies focus on the mental benefits of qi gong, although practitioners of the tradition claim that qi gong energy exercises like the arm swing work together to alleviate anxiety and depression and improve mental health overall. Harvard Health reports that tai chi, the practice within which qi gong is performed, is helpful for a number of physical maladies including arthritis, heart disease, Parkinson's disease and stroke. Specifically, the arm swing exercise does stimulate increased blood flow through the movement as well as the slapping action of your hands as your arms swing, indicating that it is beneficial to your cardiovascular system and demonstrating how it can be helpful when it comes to medical matters of the heart.
My interest in kettlebells came from reading the book, by Tim Ferriss. In the book, Ferriss advocated the principle of the Minimum Effective Dose (MED), which he demonstrates with the use of a specific kettlebell exercise known as ‘two-hand swings’. MED is defined as the smallest dose that will produce the desire outcome (thus anything beyond MED is wasteful). For example, water boils at 100 degree Celsius at standard pressure. There is no point to increase the temperature. Boiled is boiled. Under the MED principle, we should find the smallest thing that will have the greatest impact. Ferriss submits that the kettlebell two-hand swings exercise is that “smallest thing” to help us lose fat and get into shape.
To do the arm swing exercise you'll start by standing on a level and firm surface with your feet shoulder-width apart. Starting at your hips, rotate your torso to the left. Your arms should be hanging loosely at your sides and will move only because your body is moving and not because you consciously make an effort to move them. This causes the swinging action that the name of the exercise describes. When you've turned as far left as you comfortably can, reverse direction, turning to the right and allowing your arms to swing limply as they follow your body. As you continue turning from side to side your arms will begin to lightly slap at your body. Rather than performing repetitions of the arm swing exercise, the movement is usually timed. In the book "Consumer Health: Spectrom of Choices," the recommendation is to do arm swings for 10 to 15 minutes.