Tai chi improves your balance and prevents fall, muscle strength and flexibility, aerobic capacity and cardiovascular fitness, quality of sleep, it beneficial for people suffering from fibromyalgia and Parkinson’s disease.
Said to originate in ancient China, tai chi (or tai ji quan) is a Chinese martial art form practised both for defence as well as for its health benefits. The term ‘tai ji’ refers to a philosophy of the forces of yin and yang which is basically related to the moves. An art embracing the mind, body and spirit- tai chi is easy to learn and soon delivers its health benefits.
The ultimate purpose of tai chi is to cultivate the qi or life energy within us to flow smoothly throughout the body. It can be used for meditation and as an integral exercise for all parts of the body and mind. It is said to be aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable to practice. The unique feature of tai chi is it is internal. Internal means building the inner strength from inside out and therefore you can continue to develop it at any age.
There are five schools for tai chi in general today- Chen, Yang, Wu (Hao), Wu and Sun. All of these trace their origin back to the Chinese village of Chen.
Tai chi exercises are basically ‘meditation in motion’. They include a series of movements executed in a slow, rhythmic and focused manner with deep breathing. Tai chi exercises are even beneficial for aged people because they are non-competitive, self-paced and gentle and include the stretching of muscles to prevent injury.
Tai chi is known to have numerous significant benefits for both your mind and body. Here are 11 benefits of tai chi:
Top 11 Must Know Health Benefits of Tai Chi
Tai chi improves your balance and prevents fall
It has been observed that tai chi improves your balance and motor functions. According to a medical report by Harvard Medical School, proprioreception i.e. the ability to sense the position of your body in space, declines with age. Tai chi helps train this sense which is why it is extremely beneficial for older people. Seniors after practising tai chi for 8 weeks have shown a significant reduction in the number of falls.
It improves your muscle strength and flexibility
Tai chi is known to boost both your upper and lower body flexibility as well your muscle strength. When practised regularly, tai chi can even be compared to resistance training and brisk walking. It increases your overall strength and endurance, and is a great energy booster for all ages. Internist Dr. Gloria Yeh, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School said, “Tai chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.”
Tai chi improves your aerobic capacity and cardiovascular fitness
In older people, aerobic capacity normally declines with age. But in a study of adults of an average age of 55 years, it has been seen that adults who practised tai chi for around 6 weeks reported higher aerobic capacity than individuals of around the same age.
It enhances your quality of sleep
Studies have found that tai chi improves the quality of sleep, especially in older adults. A particular study among young adults showed that adults who practised tai chi for 10 weeks showed an improved sleep quality than their non-practising counterparts. In another study, more than 25 percent of older adults with impaired sleep quality reported better night-time sleep after practising tai chi for about six weeks.
Tai chi is beneficial for people suffering from fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a very common musculoskeletal disorder associated with impaired health and painful symptoms. There is no known cure to it. In a study, it was found that after practising tai chi for six weeks, patients showed improved fibromyalgia symptoms. Tai chi is thus, very beneficial for patients suffering from this disorder.
It improves COPD symptoms
Tai chi has been observed to improve the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Researchers have noted that tai chi has shown ‘clinically relevant effects in endurance and peak exercise capacity in people with COPD’.
Tai chi improves balance in people suffering from Parkinson’s disease
Regular practice of tai chi is found to reduce the number of falls in people suffering from Parkinson’s disease. It increases leg strength and overall balance in such patients.
It improves the overall cognitive health, especially in older adults
Tai chi is known to improve cognition in older adults suffering from cognitive impairment. Researchers recommend tai chi as an alternative mind-body exercise to improve older adult’s cognitive functioning and memory functions, especially verbal working memory. “We’ve seen improved immunity to viruses and improved vaccine response among people who practice tai chi,” said Dr. Michael Irwin, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Tai chi reduces depression and improves your mood
The breathing movements and mental concentration practised in tai chi will help reduce anxiety and depression, especially in prenatal women. It is thought that the slow breathing exercises have a calming effect on the body and is a boost for the mood regulating hormones. It often becomes the way of life for many practitioners and is often compared to a spiritual experience.
Tai chi promotes weight loss
Regularly practising tai chi can help you lose weight significantly. A study found that adults practising tai chi lost a little over a pound without significant lifestyle changes, at the end of about 12 weeks.
It reduces pain from arthritis
In small scale studies, it has been observed after practising tai chi for six to eight weeks, patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and knee osteoarthritis reported less pain and improved balance. Tai chi has been found to be even more useful than physical therapy, when it comes to the treatment of knee osteoarthritis.
So, thus tai chi is an exercise which is beneficial for both your body and mind. It not only helps improve balance but also enhances your night time sleep and mood as well as your overall cognitive functioning.
However, tai chi should be learnt only under proper supervision because it focuses on proper posture and exact movements, something that is difficult to learn on your own. So, enrol in a class or under an instructor for tai chi and learn the art properly.
Tai chi is a great energy rejuvenator and is a great exercise to improve your overall health, especially for older people who suffer from various health ailments.