8 Benefits of Tai Chi

I hear you ask. Well, it’s known as Tai Chi—an ancient Chinese martial art originally used as a form of self-defense. The deep breathing and slow movements have helped Tai Chi

What if there was an activity you could do a few times a week that would improve your health, fitness and quality of life without having to break a sweat? “What is this magic pill?” I hear you ask. Well, it’s known as Tai Chi—an ancient Chinese martial art originally used as a form of self-defense. The deep breathing and slow movements have helped Tai Chi make the transition to a gentle, meditative form of exercise. With relatively little time investment, Tai Chi can provide a number of health benefits for every population. Here are eight of the most exciting.

1. Lower stress levels

Perhaps the most widely acknowledged benefit of Tai Chi is its stress-zapping power. Research performed at Tufts Medical Center found Tai Chi to be associated with reductions in stress, anxiety, depression and mood disturbances, in addition to increased self-esteem.

2. Improved physical condition

The low-impact movements of Tai Chi can have a big impact on that body of yours. In a study published in Age and Aging, researchers found Tai Chi to be significantly better than brisk walking when it comes to enhancing lower body strength, balance and flexibility.

3. Improved abilities

As we age, it’s not unusual to begin to lose some degree of independence—everyday activities that once didn’t require a second thought may one day seem daunting, if not impossible. Making Tai Chi a part of your routine may help maintain some of that self-reliance. Several studies have found subjects who participated in Tai Chi showed significant improvements in self-efficacy, physical function, physical mobility and overall quality of life.

4. Reduced symptoms of arthritis

Tai Chi has been proven to lessen the symptoms that accompany arthritis—specifically sore and stiff joints. Researchers at Tufts-New England Medical Center took 20 patients with class I or II rheumatoid arthritis and divided them into a Tai Chi group and a control group that performed only stretching. Half of the subjects practicing in Tai Chi showed improvements in joint tenderness, joint swelling, cognitive coping processes and overall mobility. The stretching group displayed no significant improvements.

5. Maintenance of bone density

Weight-bearing activities such as walking, jogging and strength training have long been known to improve bone mineral density. However, science has shown that low-impact Tai Chi can also strengthen your bones. A study published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine found Tai Chi to be beneficial in creating new bone tissue in elderly subjects, leading to stronger and more fracture-resistant bones.

6. Improved cardiovascular health

If left untreated, high blood pressure can damage the heart and arteries, leading to heart attacks, strokes and even heart failure. Tai Chi may be just what the doctor ordered to get your blood pressure and heart health back. Researchers found older adults who participated in a 30-minute Tai Chi class four days per week for 12 weeks showed a significant reduction in blood pressure.

7. Improved sleep

Poor sleep can wreak havoc on your health. If you’re one of the many Americans falling short in the sleep department, perhaps a few sessions of Tai Chi is just what you need to get your nights in order. In a study performed by the University of California, Los Angeles, researchers found 16 weeks of Tai Chi to be a useful alternative to pharmacological treatments for improving sleep quality in older adults with moderate sleep complaints.

8. Safe for most

Finally, the extremely low-impact nature of Tai Chi, coupled with the slow movements associated with the practice, make it appropriate for nearly everyone. People young, old and everywhere in between—and even those with disabilities or chronic conditions—can safely perform and reap the benefits of Tai Chi.


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