It is important that we keep active as we age, but many people find that their options for exercising decrease, and they struggle to find something they enjoy that also keeps them physically fit.
Tai Chi, thought to have originated as early as the 12th century in China, has proven to be an excellent way for elderly people to keep fit, without risk of injury.
In this article we’ll look at:
- Some of the reasons if it important to keep active into old age
- The specific health benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors
- Easy Tai Chi movements to get you started
Use the navigation below to jump to the section you’re interested in, or simply keep reading.
Staying Active in Old Age
Physical activity is essential throughout life but it is sometime overlooked as we age.
Evidence has shown that regular exercise has a positive impact on many conditions such as dementia, and depression.
So if you want to age healthily, then it is essential that you find a way to exercise that works for you.
The health benefits of Tai Chi make it an excellent option for seniors who want to keep active later in life.
Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors
As the movements in Tai Chi are generally slow and it doesn’t put much pressure on your joints, it is widely regarded as being suitable for all ages.
Aside from the general health benefits of Tai Chi, there are several factors that make it particularly useful for seniors:
- Improve balance – Our balance naturally worsens as we age, due to the decline in our proprioception system. Tai Chi provides a workout for our proprioception system, strengthening the muscles and receptors that help us balance.
- Improves confidence – Lack of confidence has been shown to be a factor in the number of falls people have later in life. Tai Chi not only boosts our balance, it also has the secondary benefit of improving confidence, which also helps to make falls less likely.
- Helps mobility – By easing tension in the joints and helping to prevent arthritis, regular practitioners of Tai Chi can stay mobile well into old age.
- Builds muscle strength – Studies have shown Tai Chi to improve muscle strength and endurance in regular practitioners. Muscle strength is another important factor in keeping healthy and mobile as you age.
- Social interactions – Many people complain that as they age and retire from work, they miss the daily social interactions they used to have with people. 43% of seniors reported feeling lonely on a regular basis. Taking a Tai Chi class is a great way to get out and meet new, like-minded people. It is also something you can do with friends and family members to strengthen existing bonds.
- Learn a new skill – Continually learning new things as you age is proven to help keep the mind sharp.
Tai Chi in particular has helped to increase brain function and delay the onset of dementia. This could possibly be related to the concentration necessary to memorize and complete the exercises properly.
Relaxing – Tai Chi relaxes both the mind and body and can help to reduce stress. The gentle flowing motion from one posture to another has resulted in Tai Chi often being referred to as “moving meditation”.
These are just some of the many benefits of Tai Chi for seniors. As you learn more and more about Tai Chi and start to practice the basic forms, don’t’ be surprised if you feel a general sense of wellbeing that you hadn’t noticed before.
Embracing a regular exercise class like Tai Chi is an excellent way to help you stay motivated to lose weight.
Tai Chi Basics
Tai Chi is widely regarded as a low intensity, low impact form of exercise, where the emphasis is less on burning calories and more about reducing stress and improving relaxation.
- Tai Chi began as a martial art form in China many hundreds of years ago. Today it is more commonly practiced for the health benefits.
- The movements are slow and flow from one posture to the next
- As Tai Chi has evolved over the centuries, many different styles have emerged. There are now 5 main popular styles:
- Hao Tai
- Combination (mixes from the other 4 styles)
- People practicing Tai Chi are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing that is loose fitting, though specific sports wear is not required
- It is generally recommended that students learn from a teacher, but practice at home everyday. The teacher will be able to correct your movements and help your perfect your form.
- While Tai Chi is relatively easy to pick up and get started, it takes many years of practice to become an expert
- “The Ten Essential Principles” of Tai Chi help practitioners to focus and improve their form. They include:
- Relax the chest
- Relax the waist
- Differentiate between which leg is weight bearing
- Continuity without interruption – Movements should be smooth and flow from one posture to another, without pauses.
A basic understanding of these key points is sufficient to start thinking about trying some simple Tai Chi exercises.
Another practice that is closely related to Tai Chi that shares many of the benefits is Qigong breathing. Ancient practice focuses on conscious breathing to help you relax, sleep better and feel more energetic.
Easy Tai chi Exercises
The video below shows the top 10 Tai Chi exercises for beginners, and gives an excellent introduction to what Tai Chi is like.
Remember, while following simple exercise videos at home is a great place to start, to ensure that you are performing the moves correctly it is best to sign up to a class with a certified teacher who will be able to help correct your form.
Getting started with Tai Chi
It is really easy to get started with Tai Chi, either by joining a local class, or following a video guide. Tai Chi DVDs are widely available through retailers like Amazon, or alternatively you could simply follow videos on You Tube such as those suggested below.
As always, it is highly recommended that you speak to your local doctor or medical practitioner before starting a new exercise regime, particularly if you haven’t exercised in a while.
If you have any preexisting medical conditions the Tai Chi instructor will be able to tell you if there are any particular postures you should avoid.
So what are you waiting for?
If you are looking for interesting and inexpensive ways to help improve your strength and balance, then Tai Chi could be a really good option for you.
It is really easy to get started, and the health benefits extend far beyond the purely physical. It is also an excellent way to meet new people in a relaxed setting.
The popularity of Tai Chi is growing fast, and if you are interested in find out out more there will almost definitely be a class in your local area. Alternatively, if you want to try it out in the comfort of your home before you commit to a class, there are lots of videos and DVDs available for that as well.