Curejoy Expert Gina Hodge Explains:
Who wouldn’t have heard about Tai Chi, the ancient and most artsy form of martial art created by the Taoist monk Zhang Sanfeng in the 12th century? You would be perhaps mistaken if you have been thinking of it as a mere form of exercise. You will know why as you continue reading.
Tai Chi is a type of low-impact, weight-bearing, and aerobic, yet relaxing form of exercise, which is also considered as a form of “meditation in motion” aimed at delivering utmost physical and mental health to an individual. Practiced in a variety of styles, Tai Chi involves slow, gentle movements, deep breathing, and meditation. The motions are names after animal actions for e.g. “white crane spreads its wings” or “box both ears.”
Differences Between Tai Chi and Other Forms of Exercise?
Tai Chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. In Tai Chi, the movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched unlike the other forms of exercising.
Moreover, the main difference that makes Tai Chi better than the rest is that it can be easily adapted for anyone from the healthy person to people confined to wheelchairs. Also, Tai Chi is very safe, and no fancy equipment is needed.
Health Benefits of Tai Chi
The slow motion form of exercise – Tai Chi positively affects your mental and physical health. New findings about the benefits of practicing Tai Chi have been growing year over year. So far, here are the best benefits of practicing Tai Chi.
When we started growing old, our proprioception, which is the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space, gets weaker. This means that our body balancing will be affected a lot. Tai Chi improves this balance and reduces falls. Tai Chi helps train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments.
Arthritis and Low Bone Density
In one of the studies conducted at the Tufts University, researchers found that an hour of Tai Chi twice a week for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved mood and physical functioning more than standard stretching exercises in people with severe knee osteoarthritis.
Another study showed that eight weeks of home practice significantly improved flexibility and slowed the disease process in patients with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful and debilitating inflammatory form of arthritis that affects the spine.
Tai Chi is also said to be a safe and effective way to maintain bone density in postmenopausal women.
Woman with breast cancer can also use the benefits of Tai Chi to its fullest. Practicing Tai Chi for 12 week has shown improvement in the quality of life and functional capacity in women suffering from breast cancer or the side effects of breast cancer treatment.
Heart Disease And Blood Pressure
A research conducted at the National Taiwan University found that a year of Tai Chi practice significantly lowered blood pressure, and improved levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, and C-reactive protein in people at high risk for heart disease.
Further, another study saw that with 12 weeks of Tai Chi practice improved ability to walk and quality of life. It also reduced blood levels of B-type natriuretic protein, an indicator of heart failure.
Yet another research concluded that 16 weeks of Tai Chi practice can improve the quality and duration of sleep significantly. Moreover, even the Oregon researchers found that Tai Chi participants had improved sleep quality and length.
Increased Immunity to Shingles
Characterized by a painful, blistering skin rash, shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. In a shingles study, researchers found that Tai Chi prompted an immune response to the varicella zoster virus similar to that prompted by the varicella vaccine. When combined with the vaccine, Tai Chi helped create even greater levels of immunity — double those of the control group.
The cause of Fibromyalgia (FM) is still unknown and is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders. In one of the studies with 39 subjects with FM who practiced Tai Chi twice weekly for six weeks (one-hour classes), it was found that FM symptoms and health-related quality of life improved after the study.
Other common health benefits of practicing Tai Chi
Doesn’t stress your muscles and joints.
The risk of injury is very low.
Decreased stress and anxiety
Increased aerobic capacity
Increased energy and stamina
Increased flexibility, balance and agility
Increased muscle strength and definition
Improve joint pain
Improve symptoms of congestive heart failure
Reduce risk of falls in older adults
Note: It should be noted that if you have a musculoskeletal problem or any medical conditions or if you are on any medication, you should consult your doctor before starting Tai Chi.