A few months ago we explored the benefits of tai chi for seniors. The martial art has a draw for those in their golden years because it does not incorporate high-impact or highly aerobic exercise. However, the benefits of the martial art extend beyond simply being gentle, and regularly participating can improve nearly every aspect of one’s life.
What Is Tai Chi?
Tai chi is an ancient martial art, significantly slower than karate or taekwondo. It focuses on controlled breathing in conjunction with slow and deliberate movement, incorporating a meditative state of mind. Tai chi has its roots in ancient China, though it has evolved over thousands of years to become the “meditation in motion” it is today.
Those who practice tai chi do so for a variety of reasons. One of the most prominent is to create harmony between the mind and body. This in turn leads to stimulated health and rehabilitation. The exercise is mild yet still invigorates the body, mind, and spirit, making it a great fit for all ages and levels of strength.
Though tai chi has been called an internal martial art, its benefits affect every aspect of body and mind. It is ideal for improving balance, strength, and endurance and even has positive effects on sleep quality and social activity.
The Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors
The benefits of tai chi cannot be overstated, no matter one’s age. Tai chi offers many positive effects of a wide variety. Millions of people have found improved lifestyles by adopting the gentle and graceful movements of the martial art. If you are considering a new hobby, tai chi may be just the one.
Improved Core Strength and Balance
The benefits of tai chi for balance are well-documented. Practicing the martial art improves core strength, minimizing the risk of falling and getting hurt by at least 50%. Regularly participating in tai chi also helps seniors improve their hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness. This keeps seniors safe and improves their quality of life.
A Healthier Heart
Because tai chi is a form of meditation, it focuses heavily on correct breathing in addition to the gentle movements that are more visible. This means that even though tai chi isn’t particularly aerobic exercise, it is quite good for the heart. In addition to relaxing the other muscles, it can lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride levels, reduce inflammation, and increase levels of “good” cholesterol. Your physician may recommend the heart-healthy benefits of tai chi to strengthen your cardiovascular system if you have had a heart attack in the recent past.
Tai chi is a form of meditation in motion. It is designed to help minimize internal turmoil, including anxiety, stress, and depression. The inner peace facilitated by practicing tai chi can significantly improve the quality of seniors’ sleep. Participating in the martial art also boosts energy levels during the day, so when the day is done, the lingering effects of insomnia are mitigated, resulting in a more restful night.
Improved posture has been shown to improve other aspects of human health including circulation and respiration. The benefits of tai chi on how one carries oneself are impressive. Those who regularly practice it gently hone and strengthen their muscles, especially those in the core which keep them upright. This in turn improves posture. With better posture, seniors can expect to breathe more freely and age more gracefully.
Reduced Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is a difficult burden to live with. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia can significantly inhibit daily activities and lead to near-perpetual pain. Tai chi has been shown to mitigate the effects of chronic conditions, probably by loosening up the joints and muscles.
Improved Mental Health
In the aforementioned study about tai chi and chronic pain, it was also shown that the study group that participated in regular tai chi had fewer depression symptoms. This was true even when the martial art was only practiced for one hour twice a week.
As is the case with most new hobbies, tai chi can also introduce seniors to groups of like-minded people. The benefits of tai chi groups are many because those who participate are proactively active in addition to sharing a common interest. Tai chi groups usually have participants of varying skill levels, so there are plenty of opportunities to learn and to teach. Whether you are learning tai chi for the first time or reinvigorating an old skill, joining a group can revitalize social activity that is both personal and individualized.