Characterized by fluid, slow, continuous, and mindful movements that are coordinated with relaxed breathing, Tai Chi is gaining in popularity in the United States as a exercise which heals both the body and the mind. Is this gentle yet powerful form of exercise right for you? Here are 5 reasons why you might want to take a class or two and find out.
(1) Tai Chi alleviates and mitigates the symptoms of many age related chronic conditions.
Referred to by the Harvard Medical School as "medication in motion", Tai Chi provides research supported healing and support for those with memory loss, dementia, arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, fibromyalgia , diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and back and spinal problems, as well as reduces stress and increases physical strength, mobility, balance, and endurance.
Well respected medical groups now view tai chi as a viable complementary medical therapy. Peter M. Wayne, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Program at Harvard Medical School's Osher Research Center agrees and notes, "A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for tai chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age."
(2) Tai Chi helps you lose weight. Don't let the gentle moves fool you--30 minutes of Tai Chi burns the same amount of calories as thirty minutes of brisk walking.
(3) Tai Chi helps you keep your balance and prevents falls. According to the CDC, falls are the number 1 reason that individuals age 45 and older visit the emergency room. Out of those who do fall, 45% will die within the first year from complications due to that incident. Of the ones that survive, 50% of them will never regain total mobility.
The movements performed in tai chi build strength and vastly improve one's balance over time.
In a study conducted by Steven L. Wolf, PhD, a rehabilitation medicine specialist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, 215 people ages 70 and older were assigned to three groups. One group practiced tai chi three times weekly. Another got computerized balance training using machines that help people relearn balance after a fall. A third group did no exercise, but met to discuss issues relating to the elderly. Seventeen months after the training stopped, the tai chi practitioners had reduced their risk of falls by nearly half. And to further emphasize how effective tai chi is helping with fall prevention, in early 2011, the American Geriatrics Society and the British Geriatric Society updated their guidelines on fall prevention strategies to include "cutting back on the medication and doing more tai chi."
(4) Tai Chi improves your memory and it may even make your brain grow. Tai chi also has benefit for the brain's hippocampus, where memories are processed. One international study conducted by at team of neurologists from Florida and Shanghai found that individuals who practiced tai chi three times a week actually developed increases in brain size and improved their scores on psychological tests for cognition and memory. No such results were seen in the control group that had no intervention. They noted that their findings suggested tai chi improves memory and may help delay the onset of dementia.
(5) Tai Chi is fun to do and has no barriers! Tai Chi can be practiced regardless of age, weight, or physical ability although some forms are more suitable for certain individuals than others. It requires no special equipment or special clothing and can be done from standing and seated position. Tai chi is an exercise that can be practiced for a lifetime.
About the Author: Victoria Wesseler, Tai Chi Every Day, is a Certified Tai Chi for Health instructor. For more information about Tai Chi or to find a class near you, go to www.taichieveryday.com.