You’ll Never Guess the Origins of Some of Your Favorite Exercises

You may not realize it while you’re in Tree Pose or engaging your glutes in some squats, but many workouts that the Western world has come to know and love—such as yoga and squatting—actually originated elsewhere. Here are just a few types of workouts that began thousands of miles away in Asia:

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an ancient slow moving exercise that originated from Chinese martial arts. While it’s origins are combative, Tai Chi is slightly opposite. Instead, its focus is on slow motions of opposing forces in a harmonious manner. It teaches us to move in all planes of motion, which helps build coordination and overall balance in our daily movements and routines. Throughout the flow, you remain grounded, making it a great workout for those who are recovering from injuries, have trouble focusing or need a low impact form of exercise. Try a class at a studio near you!


Originating in India, yoga is a holistic form of mental and physical discipline. It was developed by the Indus-Sarasvati population in Northern India thousands of years ago. The name itself actually stems from one of the oldest sacred texts, Rig Veda, which included mantras and songs used for centering one’s consciousness with a higher power. While it descends from a spiritual core, it also focuses on mind and body awareness, which is what brings what we know today as physical health benefits! There are many forms of yoga in the fitness world today, ranging from slow asana-focused classes to higher energy options like acro yoga or power classes. Find your perfect style in your local studios for an eastern take on western fitness methods!


Did you know that the most common lower body exercise, the squat, originated in Asia? It began in ancient years as a hygienic way to use the bathroom, and ultimately became a way to rest from standing for other needs: reading, eating, waiting, etc. The Chinese squat is a difficult move, and different from your regular wall squat or air squat, as it requires much more flexibility. You can work on these types of advanced squats today through traditional yoga classes and martial arts!


Tabata training was created by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata during his studies on physical fitness conditioning. He observed two groups of athletes: one working out moderately five days per week, and another at a higher intensity four days per week. The moderate group worked out an hour at a time, and the higher intensity group worked out for four minutes and 20 seconds, with 10 seconds of rest between sets. His conclusion was that the higher intensity group progressed farther in both their anaerobic and aerobic systems, while the moderate group only increased in their aerobic systems. Today, you can find many gyms and studios that offer this action-packed quick class. If you’re a working professional or parent on the go, this is a great way to squeeze in some physical “me time” into a busy schedule!


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