Tai Chi is a form of martial art from ancient China known for its gentle exercise. It involves slow, deliberate and controlled motion moving from one movement to another with no pause. It is often described as “meditation in motion” because it strengthens your “mind-body” connection through focus and constant movement. It is a prevalent form of exercise in China, with large groups of people of all ages and physical abilities simultaneously practicing in the early morning hours in local parks or open spaces.
Tai Chi differs from other forms of exercise in several ways; the primary examples are that motions are usually circular and fluid during Tai Chi. Muscles become relaxed instead of tense. Joints are not fully extended, or bent and connective tissues are not stretched. These differences mean that virtually anyone can practice Tai Chi as moves can easily adapt to your ability.
There have been several scientific studies conducted on the health benefits of Tai Chi. These studies have shown that there are many physical benefits in practising Tai Chi regularly, including an increase in muscle strength, physical stability, cardiac health, breathing and lung health (motions require steady, controlled breathing) and an improvement in bone health due to the gentle shifting of weight as you go through the motions.
The health benefits of Tai Chi are not limited to physical improvements but also profoundly affect mental well-being. Tai Chi can reduce stress and anxiety and improve depression due to the mediative nature of the activity and controlled breathing required which promotes a focused state.
Tai Chi is very safe, with greater benefits the earlier you start to practice. However, it is still very beneficial for your health at any age, old or young. The best place to start is with an instructor or by joining a group session, as you will have access to better support and will benefit from the social aspects of Tai Chi. One of the main benefits of starting with an instructor or a class is that the motions can better adapt to your needs and abilities. However, if you have a physical condition that you believe may impact your ability to practice Tai Chi, it is best to discuss this with your doctor.
There are also plenty of online resources available through visual guides and online videos if you would instead begin practicing Tai Chi at home or on your own.
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