Consider Tai Chi …

I have had great success with yoga over the years, but tai chi comes heavily recommended by people whose opinions I respect. I took some classes in it and enjoyed them, but never felt as totally exercised as I did with yoga. Herewith a breakdown of this gentle martial art.

Tai chi is a non-competitive martial art known for its self-defense techniques and health benefits. As a form of exercise, it combines gentle physical exercise and stretching with mindfulness.

photo a man and woman doing martial arts

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

Research has produced mixed results but appears to show that tai chi can improve balance control, fitness, and flexibility, and might cut the risk of falls in older people.

Tai chi also appears to reduce pain and the symptoms of depression in some cases.

The martial art is an ancient Chinese tradition that has evolved over centuries. To its advocates, it has become a means of alleviating stress and anxiety, a form of “meditation in motion.” Its supporters claim that it promotes serenity and inner peace.

It is safe for people of all ages, as it does not put too much stress on the muscles and joints.

This article explores the documented evidence for the benefits of tai chi.

Benefits

Various research suggests the benefits of tai chi might include improved balance, pain management, and cognitive function in people with and without chronic conditions.

Other possible benefits include improved sleep quality and an enhanced immune system.

Fall reduction

Tai chi can help reduce the likelihood of falls when a person is older. I consider this to be a strong recommendation for all seniors to consider at least trying tai chi.

Tai chi showed some potential benefits for helping prevent trips and falls in older adults across a range of studies.

A 2012 review looked at 159 randomized controlled trials of various types of intervention that were intended to prevent falls in older people.

The studies involved more than 79,193 people, and the authors concluded that tai chi could reduce the risk of falling.

A 2015 systematic review of seven trials involving 544 tai chi chuan practitioners concluded it helped improve balance control and flexibility.

A 2014 Cochrane review found that exercises, including Tai chi, might have reduced the fear of falling among older adults in a retirement community immediately after they did the workout. However, the review did not reach any conclusions about tai chi reducing the frequency of falls.

One 2012 trial of 195 older adults with Parkinson’s disease showed that tai chi helped treat balance issues with more success than resistance training or regular stretching.

Another article notes that Tai Chi is a successful exercise intervention for factors related to falls in older people.

The evidence from these studies seems to suggest that tai chi might help support many aspects of balance and posture.

Chronic pain

Several small studies suggest that tai chi can have a significant impact on the chronic pain experienced with specific conditions, such as osteoarthritis of the knee and fibromyalgia.

A 2013 meta-analysis of seven different trials seemed to demonstrate that a 12-week course of tai chi could improve the stiffness, and pain symptoms of knee osteoarthritis and improve physical function.

The authors of the review recommended further, larger-scale trials to support their conclusions. The studies they examined had flaws and potential biases.

One 2012 trial of 195 older adults with Parkinson’s disease showed that tai chi helped treat balance issues with more success than resistance training or regular stretching.

Another article notes that Tai Chi is a successful exercise intervention for factors related to falls in older people.

The evidence from these studies seems to suggest that tai chi might help support many aspects of balance and posture.

Types

There are five different styles of tai chi, dating from different periods in history. Each has a unique set of methods and principles, lineage, and date of origin.

They are:

Chen-style, which started between 1580 and 1660
Yang-style, which started between 1799 and 1872
Wu- or Wu (Hao)-style, which started between 1812 and 1880
Wu-style, which started between 1870 and 1942
Sun-style, which started between 1861 and 1932

Some of these forms of tai chi lean towards health, while others stress competition or self-defense.

People considering a course in tai chi should speak to the instructor about which style they practice and whether it will offer the expected benefits.
History

The true origins of tai chi remain a mystery, but the concepts are rooted in Chinese history, Taoism, and Confucianism.

The founder of tai chi is believed to be Zhang Sanfeng, a 12th-century Taoist monk. Some stories claim that Zhang Sanfeng left his monastery to become a hermit and that he created a form of fighting based on softness.

Sanfeng reportedly said: “In every movement, every part of the body must be light and agile and strung together. The postures should be without breaks. Motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, directed by the waist and expressed by the fingers. Substantial and insubstantial movements must be clearly differentiated.”

The low-impact nature of tai chi means it is suitable for people of all ages.

9 Comments

Filed under aging, Exercise, exercise benefits, falls, successful aging, tai chi

9 responses to “Consider Tai Chi …

  1. Wayne Blankenbiller

    Are there any groups in Rexburg Idaho? I practice as a solo. Have done so for 60 years!

    On Sun, Mar 10, 2019 at 10:02 PM One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100 wrote:

    > Tony posted: “I have had great success with yoga over the years, but tai > chi comes heavily recommended by people whose opinions I respect. I took > some classes in it and enjoyed them, but never felt as totally exercised as > I did with yoga. Herewith a breakdown of this g” >

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would suggest googling it with Rexburg Idaho on the search. Sorry, weak on geography. Have no idea how big your town is, but tai chi is popular. I am guessing you are not much of a car ride away from classes. Check your YMCA also.

      Like

  2. I will be checking into Tai Chi classes when I am recovered from my fractured foot-osteoporosis related. It has been recommended for people with osteoporosis–very low impact and of course learning to help with balance. I’ve been a heavy exerciser, runner, gyms, weights, and now at 65, my bones are shot. I will so appreciate being able to walk again!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice article….thanks!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Tony,
    >I took some classes in it and enjoyed them, but never felt as totally exercised as I did with yoga.
    I am just learning both to help deal with getting up there. May I ask which forms of yoga and tai chi you were comparing? Also, please tell me what you mean by totally exercised?
    thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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