Without going into great detail about the nature of Chi, which is a very indefinite subject to discuss, I will address the goal of the chi practice versus "exercise".
If we can state that the purpose of exercise, as we define it, is the use of the skeleto-muscular system to produce an amount of work, balls hit, or thrown: weights lifted, distance crossed, all measureable amounts which require a discrete and also measureable amount of caloric, aerobic, and hydrating intakes.
By repetition, the skeleto-muscular and the central nervous systems reinforce patterns of motion, improving fine motor skill, as well as increasing overall brain function over those patterns and movements.
Cardio-vascular training is employed to improve overall function of the cardio-pulmonary systems.
I will not refute the efficacy of this type of training, rather I will address the real and perhaps overlooked, negative effects of this traditional type of training. Use and overuse of muscles leads to build up of metabolic waste, the chemical refuse of celluar activity.
Metabolic stress from metabolic waste.
I know that in recent years this aspect is garnering more attention, but as athletes, long, arduous practice is an inherent part of the equation of success, so without a technique for minimizing the buildup of metabolic waste, injury is the inevitable result.
Beyond running or cycling or swimming, there is little that the western athlete has to improve cardiovascular performance, but new research is showing more completely that these activities can actually have deleterious effects on health, as the bodies undergoing such activities may experience extended stretches of hypoxia. Not to say exercise is bad, it is just an activity of using the skeleto-muscular system, it is not a proper means for improving the health and well-being of the internal organs, the true determiner of health.
The unique quality of chi gong is in the direct stimulation of the internal organs achieved during the practice.??The basis of the practice is deep diaphragmatic breathing, whereby each inhalation creates a vacuum in the lower abdomem, which in turn draws the lungs down, and the breath follows naturally.??This creates a high pressure system within the lungs, where the exchange of O2 and CO2 are greatly improved.?
I will not here comment on what may or may not happen at "the Chi Level", I will leave that conversation for another time, however it is under the premise that in some way over many years, this breathing practice allows one to gather and collect this basic currency of life energy, and when one reaches a high enough level of collection, he is able to use this surplus to help others improve their own amount of chi. (2016.01.12)