When you think about exercising, what activity comes to mind first? Maybe you imagine walking, jogging, swimming, strength training, pilates, yoga, or a sport like tennis or golf. But what about tai chi? Did you know that tai chi is practiced by 20 percent of the world’s population? And because it is easy on the joints and helps with strength, flexibility, and balance, it’s also an ideal form of exercise for older adults. Scroll down to learn more about the benefits of tai chi for seniors and some basic things to know about this time-honored practice.
Tai Chi 101
First, let’s explore what tai chi is. Often described as “meditation in motion,” tai chi is a form of exercise in which you slowly perform a series of motions without stopping. Many of the motions are named after animal actions (ex: Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane, Carry the Tiger Over the Mountain) or martial arts actions (ex: Parry and Punch, Heel Kick). As is common in meditation, you’re asked to focus on your breath and the movement of your body.
Unlike many other workouts, tai chi features movements that are circular and relaxed. Instead of energetically hitting certain poses, you slowly ease into them without fully extending or bending your joints. Because this form of exercise doesn’t place a lot of stress on the body, it can be adapted to all sorts of people. Whether you’re young or old, physically fit or out of shape, or even disabled or recovering from surgery, you can likely enjoy tai chi.
If you’re interested in trying tai chi, consider taking a class so that a knowledgeable teacher can give you personalized instruction and feedback. You could also learn tai chi at home through DVDs or online videos. Whichever method you choose, please remember that before starting any new exercise routine, it’s important to check in with your doctor to ensure that it’s a good fit for you and your health.
Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors
If you practice tai chi regularly and perform the moves correctly, you can enjoy a wealth of benefits. These may include all of the following:
- Lower levels of stress and anxiety
- Boost in mood
- Increased energy and aerobic capacity
- Greater flexibility and balance
- Improved muscle strength
Furthermore, research suggests that tai chi may help with sleep quality, joint pain, blood pressure, and risk of falling. All of these benefits are greatly beneficial to older adults. So if you’ve been neglecting your physical fitness because you’re intimidated by more strenuous workouts or you’re bored by the idea of taking yet another walk around the block, why not give tai chi a chance? It’s relaxing and rhythmic, almost like a dance, but it will also improve your strength and flexibility. For the greatest benefits, try to stick with tai chi in the long term. Not only will your body reap the rewards, but also you’ll become more skilled as time goes on.
Especially if you’ve never tried it before, we encourage you to try tai chi. It’s fun, relaxing, and great for your physical and mental health.
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