Tai chi, also known as Tai Ji Chuan, originated from China as a form of exercise. Generally involving a series of different movements, it is a non-competitive sport that is self-paced with gentle stretching and physical exercises. When mastered, the different poses flow smoothly into the next, keeping the body in constant movement. Sometimes described as ‘meditation in motion’, this mind-body practice has many different benefits and is accessible for many different fitness levels.
Supporting a Healthy Weight
On average, a 30-minute session of tai chi practice is able to burn up to around 150 calories. This means that if you were to take part in tai chi every day, you will be able to burn the equivalent of around 15 pounds worth of calories a year! Unlike some other forms of exercise, the slower pace and low impact of the different poses and movements are more sustainable for individuals with a lower fitness level. On top of this, the movements are also able to boost metabolism, help with balance, flexibility, and even improve blood circulation.
Supporting Better Bone Health
Studies have shown that tai chi exercises are able to help boost bone density. As bones are living tissue, the density of your bone is dictated by your rate of activity as a response by your body. This means that just like muscles, the more active you are and use your bones more often, the body will dedicate more resources to improving bone density. This is especially important for old adults, and women in particular, as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis can be deterred or alleviated through having a better level of bone health.
Improving Cardiovascular Health
As a light to moderate exercise depending on the practice you choose, it is able to help increase your aerobic capacity, lower the risk of developing heart disease, lower blood pressure, and improve overall muscle strength. This is because when you are active, you are able to boost your heart’s pumping ability which in turn promotes your energy levels. However, the slow movements mean that the heart is able to slowly adapt and build strength without overexertion.
Supporting Pain Management
Pain can be caused by stiffness or inflammation. Tai chi is able to help alleviate these as the fluid movements involved can help to strengthen your joints, connective tissues, and muscles. In fact, studies in South Korea have shown that older adults who routinely practice tai chi have been shown to report less stiffness and pain on top of additional core strength.
Another benefit of tai chi is that it can be done both as a social activity and alone. For many older adults who live by themselves or with working children, it can become very lonely. Practicing tai chi with other people can help you to form strong friendships and also gain guidance on how to better improve your poses.
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