Category Archives: tai chi

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.

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

Chinese Exercises May Help Heart Health

I have written about Tai Chi previously. I always considered it a healthy form of physical exercise, good for the muscles, bones and mind. So, I was not totally surprised to learn that there are other benefits, too, new research shows.

Traditional Chinese exercises such as Tai Chi may improve the health and well-being of those living with heart disease, high blood pressure or stroke, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“Traditional Chinese exercises are a low-risk, promising intervention that could be helpful in improving quality of life in patients with cardiovascular diseases  — the leading cause of disability and death in the world,” said Yu Liu, Ph.D., study co-author, and dean of the School of Kinesiology, at Shanghai University of Sport in China. “But the physical and psychological benefits to these patients of this increasingly popular form of exercise must be determined based on scientific evidence.”

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Chen Pei-Jie, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and president of Shanghai University of Sport in China and his team reviewed 35 studies, including 2,249 participants from 10 countries. Continue reading

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What are the five best exercises?

Not everyone likes to work out. I see the cross fitters in the park and they don’t look like they are enjoying themselves a bit. On the other hand, everyone’s body needs to get exercise regularly. Adults should get at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise a week, or 1.25 hours of vigorous aerobic physical activity or some combination of the above.

Harvard HEALTHbeat offered the following: “If you’re not an athlete or serious exerciser — and want to work out for your health or to fit in your clothes better — the gym scene can be intimidating. Just having to walk by treadmills, stationary bikes, and weight machines can be enough to make you head straight back home to the couch.

“Yet some of the best physical activities for your body don’t require the gym or require you to get fit enough to run a marathon. These “workouts” can do wonders for your health. They’ll help keep your weight under control, improve your balance and range of motion, strengthen your bones, protect your joints, prevent bladder control problems, and even ward off memory loss. No matter your age or fitness level, these activities can help you get in shape and lower your risk for disease:

1.    Swimming. You might call swimming the perfect workout. The buoyancy of the water supports your body and takes the strain off painful joints so you can move them more fluidly. “Swimming is good for individuals with arthritis because it’s less weight-bearing,” explains Dr. I-Min Lee, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. 
Research finds that swimming can improve your mental state and put you in a better mood. Water aerobics is another option. These classes help you burn calories and tone up.

Tai Chi is called meditation in motion. It is excellent for seniors because it helps balance.

Tai Chi is called meditation in motion. It is excellent for seniors because it helps balance.

2.    Tai chi. Tai chi — a Chinese martial art that incorporates movement and relaxation — is good for both body and mind. In fact, it’s been called “meditation in motion.” Tai chi is made up of a series of graceful movements, one transitioning smoothly into the next. Because the classes are offered at various levels, tai chi is accessible, and valuable, for people of all ages and fitness levels. “It’s particularly good for older people because balance is an important component of fitness, and balance is something we lose as we get older,” Dr. Lee says.

Take a class to help you get started and learn the proper form. You can find tai chi programs at your local YMCA, health club, community center, or senior center. Continue reading

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What is the Most Balanced Exercise Program?

The more I read and write about exercise, the more the element of balance becomes important. Exercise if crucial to our well being, but it is easy to overdo it, or use bad technique and set ourselves back with an injury. Heaven knows I have had biking injuries galore.  So what is the most balanced exercise program, let me count the options.

Among the possibilities, are walking, running, weight lifting, bicycling, yoga, tennis, kick-boxing to name a few.

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WebMD says that walking, weight lifting and yoga constitute the most balanced plan because there are “three different types of exercise: aerobic/cardio (walking), strength training (weight lifting), and flexibility training (yoga).

“All three are important. Aerobic or “cardio” (walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, tennis, basketball) boosts the strength of your heart and lungs; strength or “resistance” training (weight lifting, resistance band exercises, etc.) help to keep your muscles and bones strong, and help with balance and coordination; and flexibility exercises (yoga, stretching, tai chi) can improve your range of motion and reduce your risk for injury.”

You can take the WebMD test on Fitness Do’s and Dont’s at the link.

I really like their breakdown because I consider walking to be the Cinderella sister of exercises. Everyone does it to some extent, but very few people appreciate the benefits.

Here are some of my posts on walking.

Benefits of Walking and Cycling

Walking, not Sudoku for Seniors

National Walking Day – American Heart Association

Mall-Walking

Tony

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Filed under aerobics, aging, Exercise, stretching, tai chi, target zone, walking, warming up, Weight, weight-bearing exercise, weight-training, yoga

What Are Two of the Best Physical Workouts? – Harvard

No matter what your level of fitness or age, these activities can help you get in shape and lower your risk of disease, so says Harvard Healthbeat from Harvard Medical School.

In their latest publication, Exercise, they write that you don’t have to be an athlete or serious exerciser to get into shape.

“…some of the best physical activities for your body don’t require the gym or that you get fit enough to run a marathon. These ‘workouts’ can do wonders for your health. They’ll help keep your weight under control, improve your balance and range of motion, strengthen your bones, protect your joints, prevent bladder control problems, and even ward off memory loss.

“No matter your age or fitness level, these activities can help you get in shape and lower your risk for disease:

“1.Swimming. You might call swimming the perfect workout. The buoyancy of the water supports your body and takes the strain off painful joints so you can move them more fluidly. “Swimming is good for individuals with arthritis because it’s less weight bearing,” explains Dr. I-Min Lee, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Continue reading

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Filed under aging, arthritis, biking, brain, Exercise, happiness, tai chi, Weight