Updated: Mar 30, 2019
An insight into the many health benefits of Tai chi
Tai Chi is an extremely interesting and enjoyable art form. It originated in China as a form of martial arts but today is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. Often described as meditation in motion, but could equally be described as ‘medication in motion’ tai chi promotes serenity through gentle flowing movements.
The great news is, it is a relatively cheap form of exercise and there are no special requirements for equipment or clothes. It is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. It can be practiced almost anywhere but most importantly, the benefits of Tai Chi are immediately apparent to anyone who participates in it. Unlike many exercises, Tai Chi isn’t a new fad that will disappear just as quickly as it arrived. It has existed and been practiced in China for over a thousand years.
1. Anyone can do it!
Tai Chi is a gentle art. So much so that people of almost any age or physical condition can undertake it. In fact, many prominent teachers began their careers teaching Tai Chi late in life.
2. Aerobic Capacity and Strength
Tai Chi has proven to be an exercise with significant benefits in the areas of balance, upper- and lower-body muscular strength, endurance, and upper- and lower-body flexibility.
In a study carried out by the TV series ‘Trust me I’m a Doctor’ a group of people practiced Tai Chi three times a week for 12 weeks. While another group did aerobic exercise for the same amount of time. They also undertook a myriad of physical fitness tests to measure balance, muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility before and after the 12 weeks. All participants were measured before and after for balance, muscular strength, endurance, flexibility measures, blood pressure and oxygen levels in the blood. It was found that the group doing Tai chi had the same if not more improvements in the measurements than those doing aerobics.
The focus on proper breathing techniques makes Tai Chi incredibly beneficial for everyone and especially those suffering from lung diseases and asthma.
Fibromyalgia is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders and is associated with high levels of impaired health and incredibly painful symptoms. The cause of fibromyalgia (FM) is unknown, and there is no known cure. In a study of 39 subjects with FM who practiced Tai Chi bi-weekly for six weeks, it was found that FM symptoms and health-related quality of life improved after the study.
5. Stress Relief
The breathing, movement, and mental concentration required of individuals who practice Tai Chi are the perfect distraction from hectic lifestyles. The mind-body connection is also important, as it has been reported that breathing combined with body movement and hand-eye coordination promotes calmness.
Our ability to balance decreases with age and research suggests that it may be associated with an increased risk of falling. In one study, however, it was found that individuals who practiced Tai Chi regularly improved their balance significantly.
7. Joint Health
Many forms of ordinary exercise subject the shoulders, knees, back and other joints to ill-conceived, repetitive, unnatural movements. Sometimes encouraging overstretching which inevitably leads to joint problems. However, classical Tai Chi, through the experience of multiple generations of practitioners who practiced from a young age until the end of life, fully grasps the importance of proper postures and soft, relaxed movements to protect and strengthen the joints.
8. What about The Inside
Tai Chi’s flowing and bending movements, as well as its breathing and meditation components, massage the internal organs and release them from damaging constrictions brought about by stress, poor posture, and difficult working conditions. It also works at clearing out any blockages in our meridians to help maintain the health of the internal organs. It also aids the exchange of gases in the lungs and helps the digestive system to work better.
As you can see Tai Chi can reach the parts other exercises can’t reach, and I have only scratched the surface of the many things that Tai chi can do for you. The only thing to add here is to try it for yourself. Commit to a 3 month class or course and make a note of how you felt when you started and how you feel at the end of the 3 months. I think you’ll be amazed!