Why Tai Chi Is the Latest Trend for Young SeniorsSeptember 20, 2021
Think of tai chi as the combo platter of exercises. It features a healthy portion of everything your mind and body need for overall fitness. Tai chi for seniors is an excellent choice for improving balance, calming the mind, promoting flexibility, working the core, and creating an overall feeling of well-being.
How Do You Do Tai Chi?
You’ve probably seen individuals or groups going through tai chi movements in movies or on the beach. At its most basic level, tai chi involves a series of graceful, fluid, rounded movements that help you focus on mindful breathing and connecting mind and body, all to elicit a sense of inner peace and calm. Sounds lovely, right?
While tai chi was originally developed thousands of years ago in China as a form of martial arts, it has evolved to a practice more akin to meditation. The difference of course is that tai chi involves executing deliberate, flowing movements rather than sitting completely still.
Unlike many other exercises, tai chi doesn’t require you to be in top shape or even in the best of health. The movements, with poetic names like “White Crane Spreads Its Wings” and “Seated Cloud Hands,” can be performed sitting in a wheelchair, for example, or with the aid of a chair or walker.
A Practice with Proven Results
With so many benefits, it’s no wonder that tai chi for seniors continues to grow in popularity. And it’s not just the followers who love it. Doctors are also extolling tai chi’s health benefits and impressive outcomes.
The shifts in body weight that come with performing many tai chi movements have been proven to promote better balance and improve a lesser-known sense known as proprioception, which is the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space. Proprioception declines as we age — practicing tai chi helps maintain it.
In fact, a fall prevention study by the Journal of the American Geriatric Society found that the practice of tai chi reduced the rate of falls by 43% over the short term (less than 12 months.) It also noted a 50% reduction in the rate of injury-related falls.
Researchers have even found that tai chi for seniors reduces how often people fear falling. Among a group of adults 70 years and older who regularly practiced tai chi, fearful thoughts of falling decreased from 56% to 31%, and a similar study of older adults found that 54% of the subjects who practiced tai chi attributed their improved sense of confidence to improved balance.
Practicing tai chi provides many other benefits of exercise for seniors. It can improve muscle strength, strengthen both the lower and upper extremities, and strengthen the core muscles of the back and abdomen.
Types of Tai Chi for Seniors to Explore
Of great appeal to seniors or anyone who wants to try tai chi is that no special clothing or equipment is required. Clothing should be comfortable to allow fluid movement, and you’ll want to lace on a pair of comfortable, flexible shoes like athletic walking shoes rather than running shoes. Best of all, you can explore tai chi in group classes or use it as a way to stay active daily at home.
Three of the more common types of tai chi are:
- The Tai Chi Chih Style — Involves 20 movements done in a high narrow stance and is best for beginners who want to improve their balance with easier movements.
- The Wu Style — Involves 24 to 36 movements (there are 100 movements in the traditional form) with a narrower stance and knees relaxed but not bent. It’s ideal as a step up for beginners as they gain confidence.
- The Yang Style — The simple form includes 24 movements (there are 108 movements in the traditional form) that are executed in a wide stance with knees bent most of the time is a style to progress to once you’re experienced in the practice of tai chi.
Whether you consider tai chi a lifestyle practice or a unique type of exercise, the movements are invigorating and beneficial regardless of your age, mobility, and fitness level. Give it a try!
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