What’s the importance of speed with chi exercise machines?

Goldfish

The first Japanese patent application covering the chi machine concept was filed in 1988 (and the one that was filed in USA in 1990 on behalf of the same Japanese inventor) and specified a swing speed of between 100 and 200 times per minute. But there has been some controversy about the best speed to adopt – if there really is a best one.

The original Chi Machine® has one fixed speed of about 140 beats per minute. In contrast to the broad range of effective speeds specified in the patents, Hsin Ten – the Taiwanese company who market The Chi Machine® outside Japan – say this on their US-based website: “There were many trials that were performed, and after years of research, Dr. Inoue discovered that there was only one frequency that provided our bodies with only positive benefits.”

Various Distributors of Hsin Ten have made many claims to the effect that the speed of their machine is somehow special. However, Hsin Ten USA have never elaborated on what Dr. Inoue might have discovered that lead him to believe there was a special speed - and he does not mention it in his book “Aerobic Respiration, Exercise & Health”, which is published in English by Hsin Ten.

Many people seem to have come to believe that there really is “only one speed that will work”, almost as an article of faith, and many Hsin Ten Distributors have staked their reputation on claims that using the wrong speed could harm you. For example one typical website says this:

“The speed of the Chi Machine has been determined by rigorous and thorough study. It precisely conforms to the body's metabolism whether the person is frail, athletic, young or old and moves the body in a perfect figure eight. A faster or slower speed would produce an irregular figure of eight which could actually damage the body.”

Various claims are made by individual Hsin Ten Distributors on their websites and verbally about why the speed of 140 is so important. For example, another typical website says this:

“The machine oscillates (moves side to side), at approximately 140/minute - a multiple of the average pulse rate (72) and the cerebrospinal pump rhythm (12) synchronized with your heart rate, blood pressure and spinal alignment.”


We have looked at statements like this and compared them with our own experience, with the experience of many others using competitor products with different speeds, and with other research done with chi exercise machines that have adjustable speeds. In all honesty we are not convinced that there is any logical or practical reason to substantiate these claims.

It is noticeable that Hsin Ten have never conducted any trials or provided any data to support the various claims about a “magic speed”. It does seem to us strange that, even though they claim to have sold over 5 million units (see: www.chimachine4u.com), they have not been able to provide any evidence of the importance of the 140 speed - despite claiming that adopting this particular speed is essential for achieving the desired benefits.

Many Hsin Ten Distributors imply that the choice of this speed was the result of “38 years’ research by Dr Inoue” – if this was really so, we wonder why the patent on which the original chi machine was based specifies the range of anywhere between 100 and 200 swings per minute.

Also, if strict use of this special speed is so crucial, we wonder why Skylite Corp of Japan (whose engineers invented the original chi machine, apparently with Dr Inoue’s direction or cooperation) now have an updated version on sale in Japan with 2 speeds available – 110 and 140.

More importantly, our experience is that many people find it convenient to choose their own speed, and that we all have different responses and needs. For many a slower speed allows them to relax better. This is important because without being able to relax, the user cannot easily and fully ‘let go’ to the rhythm of the swinging motion. Our experience is that any ‘resistance’ mentally will prevent the person relaxing enough to fully enjoy the benefits. If the user does not allow their body AND mind to join the wave, the nervous system will not engage with the movement in a balanced way.

An example of this can be seen in this excerpt from The Doctors TV show on YouTube where four people sample the Sun Ancon® Chi Machine®. As you can see in the video, the lady on the right is having a pretty hard time relaxing into the movement, and her feet end up swinging randomly in opposite directions, until she desperately holds them tightly together. This is not a relaxing experience! Clearly the 140 speed does not suit her.

On the other hand there are several chi exercise machines with variable speeds. Some of them have stepped speed options, where the user is able to choose one of 2, 3 or more fixed speeds. Others have dials which allow you to adjust the speed incrementally.

One of the products with a fully adjustable speed control – which also offers a very wide range of speeds from 80 to 160 – is the Surge of Chi Exerciser. This product has been through trials that were organised in 2005-6 by Energy for Health, its suppliers, with over 200 healthcare practitioners taking part. Here is an extract from the report prepared by Energy for Health on its Phase 1 trials, when the practitioners were specifically asked for their comments on the adjustable speed facility:

“Participants experimented with the speed range of 80 – 160 RPM. The average top speed reported was 135 RPM, although the majority of participants found that they preferred a lower speed when in Manual mode. The ability to vary the speed of the exerciser was appreciated overall, and most of the participants reported that different speeds suited them according to their varying needs at different times.

“There was a general consensus amongst those who commented that it is important to use a slower speed to start with. There was also a consensus that the slower speeds were more effective in helping relaxation, whilst the higher speeds were more energising.”

The Surge of Chi Exerciser also has three pre-set 15-minute programmes during which the speed changes automatically. Each programme starts at the lowest speed (80) and then speeds up gradually to a peak before decreasing again towards the end of the 15-minute session. This is Energy for Health’s summary of how the practitioners in the Phase 1 trials reported back on these Auto Modes:

Auto 1 “Leisure Time Mode”
The general consensus of those using this programme was that it was very relaxing and enjoyable. Some used this programme in the morning to get started, but most felt it was good for relaxing and unwinding at the end of the day - very good for de-stressing, but also energising.

Auto 2 “Leisure Time Mode”
Of those that expressed a specific preference for one of the Auto Programmes, most preferred Auto 2. The general effect was felt to be energising and invigorating.

Auto 3 “Sleep Mode”
Overall there was a consensus among those who tried this programme that it was calming, good for releasing tension, and for enhancing relaxation. The general opinion was that this programme either helped improve the quality of their sleep, or helped with getting to sleep.

Our own experience is similar – we notice that many people, particularly those who have health issues or are more delicate or sensitive find the gentle starting speed of the Surge of Chi much easier to work with. Also, people with back, shoulder or neck problems are able to find a speed that suits them without involving such a high risk of experiencing any reaction to the movement. For more information on back care, click here

The Chi Vitalizer is another product with an adjustable speed control. The range of speeds is from 110 to 150 so it is more restricted than the Surge of Chi Exerciser (not such a gentle starting speed). But for users who are reasonably fit this machine gives the benefit of a dial that allows you to adjust the speed gradually according to your own feeling.

For more details on other products with variable and fixed speeds, please go to the page on Later Developments

For more details of the Practitioner Trials on the Surge of Chi Exerciser, see Other Published Studies on the Research page