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Tai Chi: a form of martial arts

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is a form of martial arts 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.

How is Tai Chi different from other exercise?

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.

What are the benefits of Tai Chi?

Tai Chi offers a myriad of benefits that contribute to overall well-being. Firstly, it has demonstrated positive effects on physical health, particularly in improving balance, flexibility, and muscular strength. This makes Tai Chi a valuable intervention, especially for older adults, helping to reduce the risk of fractures from falls and injuries.

Additionally, the slow, controlled movements promote cardiovascular health and can be adapted for individuals with chronic conditions, such as arthritis or cardiovascular issues, making it an inclusive form of exercise.

From a mental health standpoint, Tai Chi is known for its stress-reducing effects. The meditative nature of the practice, combined with focused breathing, helps alleviate stress and anxiety, fostering mental clarity and relaxation.

Moreover, research suggests that regular Tai Chi practice may have positive impacts on conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

The accessibility of Tai Chi, with its adaptability to various fitness levels, makes it an appealing option for healthcare professionals looking to recommend a holistic and gentle approach to physical activity for their patients. As an activity that promotes both physical and mental wellness, Tai Chi stands as a valuable component of a holistic healthcare strategies.

Where do I begin?

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 be better adapted 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 like instead to begin practicing Tai Chi at home or on your own.

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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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