The ancient art of Tai Chi is a mind and body practice that originated in ancient China. It is a gentle form of martial arts but is very different because it is not aggressive nor does it involve any striking movements. Instead, Tai Chi uses low impact, fluid body movements that aims to cultivate the flow of Qi or life energy within the body.
Taoists practice Tai Chi to achieve mental stillness, however, in the modern age, more and more people practice this exercise on a daily basis because of its remarkable benefits. Although it is a gentle and slow exercise, long-term practice can help in improving a person’s overall health and wellbeing.
Here are some documented evidence that uncovers the benefits of daily Tai Chi.
Numerous studies have established that long-term Tai Chi practice and can help in improving muscle strength and endurance.
One study that investigated Tai Chi exercise found that the muscle strength and endurance of regular older Tai Chi practitioners are better than sedentary, non-practitioners.
Plus, according to Dr. Gloria Yeh, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, Tai Chi can strengthen both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.
Being a slow moving exercise, Tai Chi does not place any pressure on the joints, rather, it actually helps in stretching the muscles to increase flexibility. Several studies have also shown that Tai Chi can indeed help in improving posture and balance.
A study found that Tai Chi helped treat balance issues among Parkinson’s patients with more success than resistance training or regular stretching.
The improved balance and flexibility also results to the decrease in falling or stumbling. This is especially critical for older people. In fact, one research found that participating in a 15-week Tai Chi program can actually decrease the risk of falling for elderly adults by as much as 47.5%!
In 2017, Lady Gaga postponed the European leg of her world tour because she was reported to be suffering from a chronic illness called fibromyalgia or severe physical pain. The US National Institute of Health reported an estimated 5 million adults are suffering from the same painful condition. But do you know that a very recent study has found that Tai Chi works very well to relieve this illness?
Dr. Chenchen Wang, director of the Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine at Tufts Medical Center conducted a year-long study on fibromyalgia sufferers. At the end they found that those who practiced Tai Chi for a longer period of time showed greater improvement than those who practiced on a shorter period as well as than those who did not practice Tai Chi.
Another condition where Tai Chi can be beneficial is in managing pain for patients with osteoarthritis. One research found that a 12-week Tai Chi practice can be beneficial in improving Tai Chi symptoms and physical functions for osteoarthritis patients. The study even recommended that Tai Chi should be included in rehabilitation programs.
Osteoporosis which is a condition that causes the bones to be weak and brittle is a common concern for older adults. If not addressed, this can lead to back pain, a stooped posture and loss of height over time.
While Tai Chi has been found to aid in flexibility and strength, it has also been discovered to be effective for maintaining bone density. In a study conducted on post-menopausal women, the evidence of the effectiveness of Tai Chi compared to conventional exercise in increasing bone mass density exists enough to warrant further studies.
It is common knowledge that exercise is good for the heart. Most people who are not very athletic choose brisk walking in order to improve their cardiovascular health. But what might surprise you is that Tai Chi practice has actually been found to be significantly better than brisk walking in enhancing aerobic fitness in elder women.
This is actually a very useful finding especially for people who do not have access to treadmills or those without the luxury to walk outside due to weather conditions, practicing Tai Chi daily can be a great alternative.
Tai Chi may not burn as much calories as sprinting, high intensity interval training or swimming, however practicing this exercise can actually burn a considerable amount of calories.
According to Livestrong, a 125 person burns 120 calories in 30 minutes, while a 155-pound person burns 150 calories and a 185-pound person burns 178. In terms of calorie burning, a one-hour Tai Chi session is said to be equal to a one hour walk at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour.
If Tai Chi is practiced daily, that can be a considerable amount of pounds lost! And unlike other calorie burning exercises, practicing Tai Chi is not very demanding to the body. On the contrary, it is very relaxing and even stress relieving. Tai Chi can also improve your metabolism which results to more efficient calorie burning.
The body’s immune system is very important in fighting diseases, but as you grow older, this ability also declines. There are many ways to boost the immune system like eating a healthy diet and getting adequate sleep, but scientists believe that one way to reenergize the immune system is through exercise, particularly Tai Chi.
A UCLA study reported that older individuals who took Tai Chi classes three times a week for a period of 16 weeks reported achieved a level of immunity two times greater than the non-Tai Chi practicing group. This is an exciting finding as it provides an alternative to vaccines.
The unique flowing movement involved in practicing Tai Chi coupled with the deep diaphragm breathing massages the body’s internal organs, including the lungs, heart, liver kidneys and spleen. The slow movements actually compresses the organs in a beneficial way.
This can aid in your overall health because the massaging action encourages the organs to detoxify and cleanse. Without this, your body can build up stagnation which can hinder the organs’ ability to function well.
Tai Chi also aids in circulation as specific movements pumps bodily fluids including the blood, cerebrospinal fluid, lymph, and the fluids between your joints and cells. A stronger and smoother flow of your body fluids helps you to physically function better.
Unlike high intensity exercises that can drain your energy and push your body to perform harder, Tai Chi requires you to engage in a series of slow, graceful movements. The unhurried actions can help you focus your thoughts and relax your mind and body. This is one of the reasons why Tai Chi is often referred to as “moving meditation”.
Practicing Tai Chi gives you the luxury to slow down and enjoy the calmness of the moment. A one hour Tai Chi session can be helpful to reboot your and recharge as well as letting go of the day’s stresses. Studies have even shown that it can also help in improving your mood and lessen depression.
While most findings are focused on older adults, it is never too early to practice Tai Chi. This graceful art is such a beneficial form of exercise that it can be practiced by all ages, even children. The moves are not difficult and you do not need any special equipment or venue to start your practice.
Tai Chi is not an instant solution where you can reap the benefits after just one session, instead, make it a lifetime habit that can improve your well-being on the long term.
Jel is a creative ninja who produces multimedia content for a living. After 15 years of working for international TV networks, ad agencies, and film companies, she now defines career happiness as being able to write wherever it strikes her fancy - on the beach, in a local café or just at home while drinking a glass of Merlot and munching on freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.