Benefits Of Tai Chi
What is Tai Chi?
Tai chi is a defensive style of martial arts that includes gentle physical exercise and stretching and is known for its health benefits. Based on the philosophy of taiji, a balance between yin and yang, there are five different forms of this martial art. The movements of tai chi, which are often practiced in groups, tend to be slow and methodical. There are both physical and psychological benefits of this practice. It originated in China around the 12th century after which many other forms have geared up. While it was only found and practiced in China for hundreds of years, tai chi is now becoming a global phenomenon and is practiced across the world.
Types of Tai Chi
This form involves a combination of both slow and very rapid movements, which makes it a difficult form to master, particularly for a beginner. That being said, this is also the first family of tai chi and is, therefore, one of the most popular.
The least practiced and least well known, this style does not use many derived movements from the other three styles.
Derived closely from the Chen style, this form of the martial art is considered the most widely accessible and popular style in the world.
As the Yang came from the Chen, so too did the Wu come from the Yang, and this further derived style is even easier to practice for many people.
There are various forms of tai chi that combine one or more of the schools outlined above. Any combination is possible, so the forms are truly limitless.
Benefits of Tai Chi
Balance decreases with age, as does the fragility of our bones, meaning falls are much more dangerous the older we get. Tai chi improves balance and stability by training sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments, thus reducing the risk of falls.
There is also evidence that tai chi improves balance in people with mid-to-moderate Parkinson’s disease. Additional benefits included improved functional capacity and reduced falls.
Boost cognitive function.
Although the fact is that cognitive decline is prevalent among older adults (about 40 percent of older adults in America have some form of cognitive impairment, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease), it need not be considered a foregone conclusion. Nor should getting older need be synonymous with cognitive decline. A growing body of evidence points to the benefits to older adults from practice of tai chi in the areas of global cognitive and memory functions, especially verbal working memory. A meta-analysis found agreement with the findings of numerous studies on the benefits to cognitive function from physical exercise, and researchers recommended tai chi as an alternative mind-body exercise to improve older adults’ cognitive functioning.
Tai chi can strengthen our muscles when practiced regularly, which, in turn, keeps our joints stable and protected. Strong muscles also reduce the pain of osteoarthritis for sufferers.
Improve COPD symptoms.
An Australian study found that a modified tai chi program – Sun-style tai chi — helped boost exercise capacity and improved participant’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms. Researchers noted that tai chi has “highly clinically relevant effects on endurance and peak exercise capacity in people with COPD.”
Research at Harvard Medical School found that patients who had chronic heart failure and began regularly practicing tai chi experienced a better quality of life, increased exercise capacity and that they slept better.
Get better night-time sleep quality.
A 2016 pilot randomized controlled trial evaluating the benefits of tai chi qigong (TCQ) on night-time sleep quality of older adults with cognitive impairment found better quality of both sleep and life than a control group not participating in tai chi qigong. Since more than 25 percent of older adults with cognitive impairment suffer impaired sleep quality, the search for nonpharmacological approaches to improve the quality of night-time sleep is gaining momentum. Due to their low physical strength and medical condition, however, many older adults with cognitive impairment cannot engage in certain exercises. Thus, developing exercise programs tailored to mental conditions and reduced physical well-being is important. Results from the pilot trial showed tai chi qigong participants benefited from improved sleep qualities in the areas of sleep duration, sleep efficiency, and the mental health component of quality of life. Researchers noted that, as a low-intensity exercise, TCQ is an appropriate intervention to improve night-time sleep quality in older adults with cognitive impairment.
Adding a little tai chi to your life could also lower your risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, suggests a new study from the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The study showed that tai chi improved brain volume, an important part of cognition since gray matter typically shrinks with age. Researchers suggest that the high level of concentration needed for the tai chi movements could be to thank.
Improve symptoms of fibromyalgia.
In a study comparing the effectiveness of tai chi and aerobic exercise on fibromyalgia symptoms in patients, researchers found that tai chi resulted in similar or greater symptom improvement than aerobic exercise. Longer-duration tai chi provided greater improvements, researchers noted, concluding that the mind-body approach of tai chi may be a viable therapeutic option in the multidisciplinary management of fibromyalgia.
Tai chi improves our flexibility and range of motion, making us more functional. Being flexible keeps our entire body healthy and allows us to be more active for longer.
Tai chi also improves posture, which is an important component of health (yeah, you heard us right). Developing good posture will result in less wear and tear on joint muscles and also aids breathing, because when we are sitting upright, there is more space for our lung to expand, improving breathing capacity.
Reduce risk of falls.
Among older adults, the risk of falling is an ever-present and major concern. As such, finding therapeutic approaches to help reduce fall risk in this cohort is of major importance. A 2016 review of 10 randomized controlled trials examining tai chi’s effect on fall reduction found the ancient Chinese exercise demonstrates a significant protective effect on fall prevention risk among older adults. Researchers noted the need for additional trials to determine both optimal duration and frequency of tai chi programs and optimal style of such programs for older adults.
The Chinese believe the mind is the most important aspect of health since the mind controls the body. Well, lucky for you tai chi is one of the most powerful mind-body exercises around. Almost everyone who takes up tai chi notices improved relaxation and concentration. It also helps us cope with the fast-pace of modern-day life by forcing us to take the time to appreciate the tranquillity and nature around you.
Reduce prenatal anxiety and depression.
A 2013 study of tai chi and yoga treatment for prenatal women with anxiety and depression found that the tai chi group had lower scores in depression and anxiety, as well as lower scores in sleep disturbance at the end of the 12-week, once-per-week sessions.