Why You Should Practice Tai Chi

When was the last time you saw an American elder person perform a full squat or be able to move up and down from the ground?  Now ask that same question about an elder person in China or India.  The answer is much different.  We notice some interesting differences in how people age when we study other cultures around the world.  Many societies have fewer infirmed and immobile elders than does America.  Elders in many of the Mid East and Eastern cultures tend to function at a much higher level.  Lifetime participation in activities, such as Tai Chi and yoga, is one reason for this difference in healthy aging.

Fitness group doing tai chi in park on a sunny day

Aging healthfully and successfully involves integrating the body, mind, and spirit.  Few activities and exercises simultaneously address all three aspects of a person’s life.  Tai Chi and yoga are two forms of exercise that have an effect on all three aspects.

Tai Chi, also known as Tai Chi Chuan (TCC), is a soft form of martial arts that originated in China hundreds of years ago. Its basic movements allow for full body strengthening and balance. A focus on relaxed breathing and mental attention helps to achieve balance between body, mind, and spirit. It doesn’t require special equipment–only a small space indoor or preferably outdoor to perform. Research on Tai Chi supports many wonderful medical benefits. The major outcome of regular practice is reduced frailty.

12 Reasons Why You Should Practice Tai Chi:

  1. Increase your lower extremity and core strength.
  2. Improve your lower body and upper body arm control.
  3. Improve your balance and postural stability.
  4. Improve your flexibility.
  5. Reduce your body fat.
  6. Reduce your number of falls.
  7. Utilize your practice as part of a cardiovascular rehabilitation program for prevention and/or post surgically.
  8. To produce higher peak oxygen uptake during exercise and reduce your blood pressure.
  9. Safe and beneficial exercise if you have diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), and multiple sclerosis (MS).
  10. Benefits your immune system and aids in hormone regulation.
  11. Improves your bone mineral density. Regular Tai Chi exercise can help to treat osteoporosis and osteopenia (the loss of bone density and associated with fractures of bones in the elderly).
  12. Improves your mood and reduces stress, tension, depression, anger, fatigue, confusion, and anxiety.

No wonder why Chinese doctors utilize Tai Chi to treat hypertension, stress, depression, mental strain, chronic indigestion, insomnia, and arthritis!

Tai Chi offers a wonderful method to maintain your mobility and health as you age.  With people living longer, the focus should be on health span versus life span.  Older adults participating in Tai Chi exercise report a sense of improved well-being, increased alertness, relaxation, an improved mental outlook, and greater confidence.

I strongly recommend finding a local Tai Chi class to participate in with a group. Active engagement in your community is a critical part of successful aging as well maintaining meaningful relationships with others.  If you are unable to locate a group or Tai Chi instructor, then utilize the free resources available on YouTube.  Daily Tai Chi, a free instructional video, will teach you how to perform the basic Tai Chi movements.  Tai Chi for Beginners discusses the origins of Tai Chi and offers a sample lesson.

America is heading into a generational change as the baby boomers move into their elder years.  For a more thorough discussion on successful aging, please refer to How to Age Successfully.  For an excellent read on America’s aging population and how it will re-shape our expectations, check out Ken Dychtwald’s Age Power: How the 21st Century Will Be Ruled by the New Old.

Do you participate in Tai Chi?  What benefits have you experienced?  Please leave your comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Why You Should Practice Tai Chi

  1. Hello Physical Therapy Advisor,

    Thank you for helping to get the word out about Tai Chi! It is the most accessible and easy thing people can do, that people just are NOT doing! It’s like an undiscovered gem.

    I think those who need this the most need the information you have provided. Too many people are not taking advantage of these easy to do movements because of the strange foreign names and words that remind them of extreme martial arts movements and beliefs. You have helped to take down this barrier.

    I am retired and have recently taken a couple of day time Community Ed classes that teach you the Tai Chi moves. They have been wonderful experiences, leaving me wanting more. Everything I have learned I can do at home indoors, outdoors, actually anywhere, anytime because there is no need for any equipment at all. Doing the moves calms and relaxes me, focuses my attention and memory. It also has naturally strengthened my legs, improved my sure-footedness, and I think anyway added some grace to all of my movements.

    Socially its good to meet with a group of fellow learners and movers. If I want, there are Tai Chi groups that meet several times a week to do the moves in a group setting.

    Sometimes you just want to get up and move! But you get discouraged thinking– what will I do? Maybe you think walking, jogging, is boring, or impossible for you, or requires too much preparation and effort. Unlike a lot of activities, Tai Chi can happen the minute you think of it, in a chair or when you stand up. No need to make golf course, or Tennis court reservations, dust off the bike, or call friends to make a future plan to move it. With Tai Chi you can just do it now! No equipment, special clothing or advanced planning needed!

    I say try it! I’ll bet you’ll like and benefit from doing it. Above all, have fun at it!

    • Lance, your enthusiasm is contagious! Tai Chi is a wonderful form of exercise. I really hope more people will take your advice, and give it a try! It’s fun and safe for ALL ages and abilities. Thanks for sharing!

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