Kung Fu is a long term investment because of its progressive learning curve. One will usually only reap the truly great benefits of practicing Kung Fu after at least 3 years of consistent practice.
As many know and agree, the practice of Kung Fu brings health benefits, all the way into old age. Many old Chinese physicians will tell you that the most effective way to build up your Ti Zhi (body quality) is to practice Kung Fu. People who tend to be heaty, easily inflamed and have a short fused temperament can expend their energies in the physical exertion of Kung Fu while complementing with a calming art like meditation. People who are frail, lack energy and often suffer from cold should pick up Kung Fu that have strong expressive movements, for movement generates Yang qi vigor in one's body.
Kung Fu practitioners have the knack of recovering after exerting and thus can endure increasingly more high intensity training with minimal risk of injury. Qigong is the basis for this. Many styles of Kung Fu uses qigong exercise as a warm up routine. Qigong is also used to prepare the practitioner for conditioning drills such as hitting the sand bag, stabbing the beans and conditioning the body to take hits. The fortifying effect of qi not just protects the body from impact during training and actual combat, it also helps the body recover from wear and tear after exertion.
The use of Dit Da Jow (medicinal wine in Cantonese) works hand in hand with Qigong. When it comes to more strenuous tasks such as finger conditioning and conditioning the body to take hits, the wine helps to improve bloodflow, and improves absorption of the medicinal herbs content in the wine. This way, Chinese martial artists prevent permanent injury or post workout strain while still getting the benefits of such strenuous training.
Permanent injuries from workout and combat can be 'hidden' in the body when one is young. Small injuries such as minute sprains, ligament tear or tendon hardening. These little wear and tear will develop into annoying joint pain and restricted movement when youth wears away, after 30 for most. It takes a skilled physician to detect and diagnose such problems. This is why prevention of the problem is always wiser than cure, by the time it is troubling you and you will be faced with regret and doubt.
While prevention of injuries and damage to the body helps to preserve health and wellness till old age, movements over the full range of motion for every joint is actually the big deciding factor for muscle and bone health preservation. Sadly nowadays due to the commercialization of Chinese martial arts for performance, people have been led to think that these big movements are merely asthetic, not discovering their actual function. While these big exaggerated movements may seem uneccessary for someone who's only concerned with the fighting aspect of martial arts, they actually keep the joints in good working condition.
While a normal worker in society does not need the flexibility or explosive power of a gymnast, he would certainly still want to prevent long term joint and muscle deterioration. Movement generates Yang Qi, so you need to move well, move enough. For this, many traditional Kung Fu movements are very good. There are some forms of qigong such as Shaolin Ba Duan Jin and Yi Jin Jing which keeps the body's mechanical functions young and nimble.
Moving the body in non-instinctive movements also requires the mind to perform at a higher level, more computing capacity of the mind is required. Especially mind boggling for people with an uncoordinated body. While this may not be so attractive for people looking for quick-to-learn self-defense or combat sport, this aspect of Chinese Kung Fu actually keeps the brain flexible, on top of already keeping the body flexible.
Compared to other forms of sports, Kung Fu can be quite a mind game rather than a no brainer. And when it comes to combat, if someone actually trains his mind till he gets the ability to coordinate many techniques, that person has more options for himself, plus increased capacity to multi task on opponent's movements and battle strategy. Movements that are non-instinctive and more sophisticated also require more 'brain power' for a person to read and defend against. If people think that Kung Fu has some mythical illusion techniques, it's most probably because the opponent is too confused as he is unable to compute what the Kung Fu expert is doing.
If you have a high level degree in education or a high IQ rating, you can consider trying to learn Chinese Kung Fu as a challenge to yourself. Who knows? You might be the next Kung Fu prodigy.
For the health concious, an active mind fights off depression, alzhemier disease, memory loss and other mental ailments. Not to mention an active mind also makes an active body.