Tai Chi: Ideal Exercise for Seniors
Tai Chi can be an excellent form of exercise for older adults. The soft, flowing movements of this traditional Chinese exercise can be practiced by anyone who is capable of walking. Recent scientific studies have shown clinical benefits of practicing Tai Chi for persons suffering from various chronic health conditions.
What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi is a form martial art that has transformed over the years to extend its health benefits to people of all ages. Based on the philosophy of Taoism and the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tai Chi can improve your health in a safe and gentle manner.
An important concept of Tai Chi to understand is that Qi, or energy, flows in our body to maintain and control its function. When the flow of Qi is full and unimpeded, there is health; when the Qi is blocked, pain and dysfunction result. As we age, the flow of our Qi declines, diminishing our strength and vitality. Tai Chi was developed as a way to improve the flow of Qi in our body to return and maintain our health.
Tai Chi is performed as a series of movements that gently stretch and strengthen our body while developing our sense of balance. These movements guide and circulate our Qi to balance its flow. Most importantly, Tai Chi is a form of moving meditation that can increase our awareness and cultivate a calm mind. This combination of mind and body exercise makes Tai Chi a unique practice that can benefit our health at any age.
How can Tai Chi Improve Our Health?
Tai Chi is an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine. This system of medicine focuses on preventative care and rehabilitation to promote longevity.
Health conditions that Tai Chi can benefit:
- Cardiovascular system: Tai Chi provides a moderate-level of exercise that strengthens the Heart improving blood circulation and lowering high blood pressure.
- Respiratory system: Tai Chi is an aerobic exercise that focuses on deep rhythmic breathing. This can improve Lung function, benefiting Asthma and other pulmonary conditions.
- Immune system: Tai Chi has been shown to increase T-lymphocyte production, which can help prevent infections and fight against cancer. A recent study showed increase immunity against Shingles, a common re-activation of varicella-zoster virus (VZV or chicken pox) that occurs in seniors.
- Arthritic Pain: Tai Chi is a low-impact exercise that can benefit the muscles and joints through slow comfortable movements. These controlled movements can improve our range-of-motion and relieve arthritic conditions. Tai Chi is also a weight-bearing exercise and can increase our bone density, helping fight again osteoporosis.
- Balance and Proprioceptive awareness: Tai Chi can increase your sense of balance helping decrease the risk of dangerous falls.
- Mental functioning: Tai Chi requires mental focus. The practice of the form trains the memory and keeps the senses keen. The meditation aspect of Tai Chi leads to a happier mind and less stress.
- Digestion: Tai Chi can activate the para-sympathetic nervous system helping to improve our digestion. Proper digestion is the root of health and necessary to extract the important nutrients from our food.
Starting Your Tai Chi Practice
Tai Chi is a safe and fun exercise for everyone, especially older adults.
Keep the following tips in mind:
- Remember to only bend to a comfortable level and never move through or hold a position that causes any pain. Muscular conditioning is part of the practice, but you should gradually increase your level of exercise.
- Tai Chi does not require any form of uniform; just wear loose, comfortable clothing. You should also wear simple flat shoes as these are best for balance during the practice.
- While there is no standard in certification of teachers, it is best to find a teacher with long-term experience and an understanding of the needs of seniors. Videos and books cannot correct you during your practice, so find a teacher to instruct in the proper postures and principles of Tai Chi.
Seniors can feel the benefits of Tai Chi after only a few short weeks of practice, and it can provide long lasting benefits to your health. Find a qualified teacher and a good beginner’s course to start your way to better health and longevity.