A group of people practicing Tai Chi in a park can be a beautiful thing. In general, they are focused and relaxed, and their movements appear coordinated and slow. But don’t let its ease of movement fool you — tai chi is authentic exercise, and it can improve your coordination, balance, mobility, and strength, as well as your mind’s ability to be present, among other health benefits. can also improve.
“Tai chi is a dynamic mind-body exercise that has its origins in Asian martial arts and traditional Chinese medicine,” explains Peter Wen, PhD, an associate professor of medicine and director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham . and Women’s Hospital. “Tai chi introduces slow, gentle, repetitive movements with breathing integrated with body awareness, mental focus, imagery and visualization,” he says.
There is a physical and mental element to tai chi, and more scientific research is emerging on how effective it can be for promoting overall health. While it’s best known for its stress-buffering benefits, it also has other potential benefits, such as helping to soothe pain conditions and cancer-related symptoms and lowering blood sugar in a similar way to other forms of exercise. To do, notes the National Center for Complementary and Integrative. Health (NCCIH).
Read on to learn how tai chi can support wellness in a variety of groups across a variety of health conditions and physical abilities.
1. May Help Reduce the Risk of Falling
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a quarter of American adults over the age of 65 will suffer a fall each year. Falls send three million older adults to the emergency room each year, and they can lead to hospitalizations, broken bones, and traumatic brain injuries, the CDC notes.
“Tai chi is one of the most effective tools available for improving balance and reducing falls,” says Dr. Wayne says. In a systematic review and meta-analysis published in BMJ Open On nearly 4,000 people in February 2017, those who practiced tai chi were 20 percent less likely to fall than a control group that didn’t practice tai chi. And the more consistently a person practices tai chi, the greater the protection against falls, the authors suggest.
According to the researchers, exercise not only improves balance, but it also improves proprioception (the sense of the body’s position in space), muscle strength and endurance.
2. May Improve Heart Health
Exercise, in general, is good for your heart – and tai chi is one of those. In a small randomized trial published in May 2021 International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, middle-aged and older adults who practiced Wu-style tai chi (a specific type of tai chi) for six weeks, in addition to their conventional therapy plan, had a reduction in their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and systolic saw greater improvements in blood pressure than a group that practiced a simplified style of tai chi in addition to their traditional medication. (Wu-style tai chi has movements that are “soft and [more] which was developed in the 1950s to popularize the practice.) Slow abdominal breathing, which is incorporated into tai chi, has been shown to support circulation and prevent heart disease. Can also help reduce the risk of
A systematic meta-analysis published in November 2022 in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice looked at seven randomized controlled trials of 503 hypertensive participants and showed that participants who did tai chi five times per week for 60 minutes per session reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers. The authors note that more research is needed to fully understand how exactly a consistent tai chi practice may affect blood pressure.
People with heart disease who regularly practiced tai chi experienced less stress, anxiety and depression and better quality of life compared to control groups, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis of 15 studies published in Provides quality information. European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing In October 2020. This is important because 20 percent of patients with heart disease have symptoms of depression. “As people move through tai chi, they are asked to relax, breathe naturally, and focus their attention. It’s somewhat similar to meditation,” says study author Ruth Taylor-Pilia, PhD. RN, professor in the Division of Behavioral Health Sciences at the University of Arizona College of Nursing in Tucson. It may be the meditative aspect of tai chi that helps improve mood in this group, although more research is needed.
3. May you age well
Tai chi can improve confidence in the abilities of aging adults’ bodies. In fact, for older adults, a recent large-scale systematic review published in November–December 2022 Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics examined 89 studies and concluded that tai chi improved mobility, pain, physical function, psychological health, cognitive function, and overall quality of life in most older adults.
A systematic review and meta-analysis in December 2022 Aging Research Reviews indicates that tai chi may improve physical functioning in elderly individuals who have sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass and strength with aging), or who are frail. “When you’re afraid to move, you stop doing the things you love, like socializing and traveling,” explains Wayne. Over time, this can foster isolation and loneliness, which can result in other physical and mental concerns. “Movement, I believe, is one of the key factors in keeping people healthy. A good form of movement, such as tai chi, increases your ability to move and do whatever activity you want to do.” is,” he says.
4. May Boost Cognitive Function and Mood
“The benefits of tai chi for psychological well-being are valuable,” says Wen. “We know that exercise has the potential to reduce stress, depression and anxiety, improve overall mood, and maintain healthy cognition as we age,” he says.
A previous meta-analysis confirms its potential mood-boosting benefits in both the short and long term, meaning that tai chi may be valuable for your sense of mental well-being after a class, and the more you practice. Builds up from there. For most of the studies, people did tai chi two to three times per week for 40 to 60 minutes per session, and psychological benefits were present for both healthy individuals and those with existing health problems.
In summary, the research suggests that tai chi practice could be used more widely to support psychological health.
5. May Improve Bone Health in Postmenopausal Women
Bone loss occurs after menopause, and about half of postmenopausal women will develop osteoporosis (a disease characterized by weak bones), according to the Endocrine Society and the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center.
But some lifestyle changes can help preserve bone, such as avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol, eating a balanced diet, and making exercise a priority. Gentle movement exercises, such as tai chi, may be worth discussing with your doctor and adding to your wellness routine.
Published review in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience concluded in September 2022 that practicing tai chi for at least six months may help reduce bone loss, although more research is needed. Tai chi movements center around the ability to keep a semi-squat posture and shift the weight back and forth between the legs while twisting and rotating the torso. This makes tai chi a weight-bearing exercise that may help strengthen bones, the researchers explain. What’s more, according to Harvard Health Publishing, tai chi may be a safe form of exercise to strengthen your bones and reduce your risk of falling if you have osteoporosis.