Attention fifties! It’s time to get into Tai Chi.

Tai chi, a body-mind exercise rooted in multiple Asian traditions. Including martial arts, medicine and traditional Chinese philosophy. As it is now widely recognized as a gentle form of fitness which has a beneficial effect on health. With benefits such as improved balance, enhanced immunity and improved cognition, it is also popular with the elderly, thanks to its accessibility and effectiveness.

What exactly is tai chi?

In a nutshell, tai chi is an ideal mind-body practice combined with basic sports training. The physical part is derived from a series of slow martial arts movements, while the mental aspect aligns with the go-with-the-flow aspects of Taoism. Together you have an array of targeted exercises that can be done in repetition or linked together in what is called a form of tai chi.

Like yoga, there are many styles of tai chi. Some are more vigorous and others more serene, but the principles are omnipresent. In all exercises and all forms of tai chi, the posture is the same. The breathing is the same. Relaxation is the same. The coordination of the whole body is the same. All movements prohibit the use of force. And yet, when people practice tai chi, they gain strength.

Why choose tai chi over other forms of mind-body exercises?

Several elements of tai chi make it particularly appealing to people in their 50s. First, most exercises are done standing up. Some people don’t like movements that require getting up and lying down. And the fact of being able to do everything in one standing position is very interesting.

Additionally, the “no pain, no gain” mentality of most Western exercises is absent, hence discouraged in tai chi. Tai chi doesn’t have to be painful. If someone has pain in their hips, knees or ankles, they are the ones who decide how far to stretch a movement.

Finally, a final reason why tai chi might be a great choice, even for people over 60, is that it seems to improve a person’s ability to perform real-life activities, such as carrying groceries or climbing stairs.

The health benefits of tai chi.

There is so much research on the benefits of practicing tai chi that it is impossible to fit them all into this article.

When people practice tai chi, they develop basic athletic qualities. Like balance, power and strength, endurance, aerobic capacity, agility, flexibility, speed, accuracy and proprioception.

Tai Chi is also clinically proven to be effective as a rehabilitation therapy for people with cardiopulmonary conditions and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The practice of Tai chi can significantly reduce chronic pain related to conditions such as fibromyalgia and improve neurological function in people with Parkinson’s disease. It is also beneficial as physical therapy and pain management for osteoarthritis, encouraging joints to become more flexible and useful as they may have been at a younger age.

Tai chi also has mental benefits. Including improved cognition, mood and concentration, as well as reduced stress, anxiety and depression. Improved sleep quality is another benefit.

And for those looking to slim down their figure, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that practicing tai chi was even more effective than regular walking and strength training in reducing belly fat. This benefit matters, because “central obesity” carries a higher risk of mortality – especially in postmenopausal women – even in people whose body mass index (BMI) is within a normal range.

Who can’t take up Tai Chi?

Tai chi is generally safe for everyone, regardless of age or physical condition. In a study of 256 sedentary adults aged 70 to 92, tai chi reduced the number of falls and fear of falling compared to stretching. People who practiced tai chi also had improved functional balance and physical performance after 6 months. However, tai chi is not meant to replace medical care for a serious condition. Tell your doctor and instructor about any recent health problems or injuries you may have, or if you are pregnant.

Should we be careful during Tai-chi movements?

Tai chi works muscles in areas of your body that may have been neglected. This is why you may feel pain at first. It takes time to develop the posture, flexibility and agility necessary for tai chi, so don’t be discouraged. As with any exercise program, safety depends on proper stretching and warm-up exercises, as well as proper alignment. If you experience dizziness, shortness of breath, headache or severe pain, stop practicing and tell your instructor immediately, then consult your doctor. People with severe psychiatric disorders should use tai chi under the supervision of their doctor to see how they respond to relaxation.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.

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