The Health Benefits of Tai Chi
Tai chi is an internal Chinese martial art, practiced for defense training, health benefits and mediation. As one of the most gentle martial art forms, tai chi is a great exercise option for older adults across the health and mobility spectrum — bringing with it a slew of benefits, healthful and otherwise. Let’s take a closer look:
Tai chi, short for T’ai chi ch’üan or Tàijí quán (太極拳), is an ancient Chinese martial arts practice, rooted in a deep history and philosophy. (You can read more about that on CultureTrip, here.) According to MayoClinic, tai chi “is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion.” The movements emphasize deep breathing, encouraging participants to slow down and get in touch with their body and feelings.
Because tai chi is low-impact, slow-motion and emphasizes the mind-body connection, it’s become a popular practice globally, attracting a broad spectrum of participants. And thanks to its wide array of health benefits, it’s since been adopted as a common practice at hospitals, community centers, older adult facilities and the like.
Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but because its health benefits are so great, Harvard Women’s Health Watch jokingly calls it “medication in motion.”
The low-impact exercise boasts physical health benefits such as improved lower- and upper-body strength, improved flexibility, improved balance (and possibly even decreased risk of falling), improved joint pain, enhanced immune system, enhanced quality of sleep, lowered blood pressure and healthy aerobic conditioning (where heart and lungs are trained to pump blood more efficiently, allowing more oxygen to be delivered to muscles and organs). All of the listed benefits are crucial to older adults seeking to maintain or better their health.
In addition to its physical health benefits, the meditative aspect of tai chi brings with it an array of mental health benefits. These benefits include decreased stress, anxiety and depression; improved mood, energy and stamina and a general boost to wellness overall.
Part of the appeal is that tai chi can be practiced independently or within a group setting, and it doesn’t require any equipment. If a low-impact, slow-motion and mindful form of exercise sounds like a good fit for you, then tai chi might just become part of your next fitness regimen routine.