Tai chi is a relaxing exercise that has a number of health benefits for the mind and body.
Regular physical exercise is important for staying healthy and fit, but traditional workouts can be difficult for seniors. Because tai chi is so low impact, it is an especially good activity for older adults. Like swimming or yoga, tai chi is a way to build strength and improve balance without putting too much stress on the body. It also promotes relaxation and mental wellness.
What is Tai Chi?
According to Stanford University, tai chi is one of 300 different forms of Chinese martial arts. Unlike other styles that emphasize strength, speed and physical prowess, tai chi focuses on stability and poise. There are five different styles of tai chi that all hold the same values.
Tai chi is said to have been invented when a Taoist priest observed a crane stop and eat a snake, and the slow, methodical movements mimic this action. Overtime, this form of martial arts has evolved into a gentle exercise rather than a fighting style, Stanford reported.
There are two key concepts within tai chi. The first - known as Qi - is an energy force that flows throughout the body. tai chi balances this energy and centers the Qi. The other pillar of this exercise is the yin and yang. These opposing forces are thought to make up the universe and create order and peace. Tai Chi is said to be an expression of that equilibrium.
What are the health benefits?
Although tai chi involves slow, methodical movements and focus rather than intense physical activity, Harvard University found that the exercise has many health benefits. Seniors especially can reap the rewards of tai chi.
One of the core advantages of this activity is muscle strengthening for the lower and upper body. Harvard found that when practiced on a consistent basis, it holds similar benefits to resistance training or walking. Assistant professor at Harvard Medical school Dr. Gloria Yeh explained these advantages.
Tai chi can improve both lower-body strength and upper-body strength. When practiced regularly, tai chi can be comparable to resistance training and brisk walking.
"Although you aren't working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in tai chi strengthens your upper body," said Yeh. "Tai chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen."
Tai chi also promotes flexibility and balance. Harvard found that seniors in particular can struggle with spacial awareness in old age, and that the exercise helps sensory neurons in the inner ear stay sharp. At the same time, the activity stretches muscles in a way that promotes flexibility with stressing the body. For that reason, tai chi can even have aerobic benefits.
Because the activity is based in calmness and focus, tai chi can have a positive effect on a person's mental health as well. Taking the time to unwind and relax the mind can be surprisingly difficult, and the smooth pace of tai chi is effective at helping relieve stress and find inner peace. At the same time, tai chi is also a social activity that can be great for seniors to get out of the house and make new friends.
Before finding a tai chi class in your neighborhood, you should discuss with a primary care physician about any outstanding health concerns. Your doctor may also be able to recommend a good instructor.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living