Tai Chi is an ancient fitness exercise or martial art performed by the Chinese and is known for the physical and psychological benefits it provides to those who practice it. It is a non-competitive, non-stressful, self-paced exercise, which is very comfortable for older people with limitations.
Tai Chi is good for seniors because it helps with cardiovascular fitness, anxiety, stress, and depression reduction, as well as motor control. It has been deemed suitable for seniors who experience conditions associated with aging, such as neurological dysfunction, arthritis, and coordination issues.
The rest of this article will outline the benefits of Tai Chi and what you need to know before enrolling in a Tai Chi class. So, let’s dive in.
Benefits of Tai Chi to Seniors
Tai Chi provides a lot of health benefits to seniors, including strengthening leg muscles, reducing pain, increasing flexibility, and boosting the strength and immune function in people with chronic ailments like cancer. It also offers emotional and mental advantages, such as improved memory and cognitive function.
Tai Chi martial arts can help older adults have fun and improve their health at the same time. They undergo breathing, concentration, meditation, and deliberate movement exercises explicitly designed for them. Proper concentration and breathing can help to relax their mind, relieve stress, improve balance, and remain calm.
As a senior citizen, taking Tai Chi exercises can help you minimize the risk of aging-related conditions such as body imbalance and coordination, neurological dysfunctions, arthritis, and much more.
Let’s delve into some of the benefits of this historical activity.
It Relieves Arthritis and Other Types of Pain
Many studies have been able to prove that Tai Chi exercises can relieve arthritis in seniors.
One particular study in the Journal of Rheumatology found that Tai Chi practice movements are good for joint pain and arthritis. These movements help to retain the range of motion in joints to reduce stiffening. This is because the movements are gentle, low impact, and do not cause any unnecessary pain.
These movements may also treat pain from fibromyalgia and osteoporosis, back problems and sciatica. Other studies show that Tai Chi can effectively treat osteoarthritis in the knee, just like physical therapy.
It Improves Balance and Reduces the Risk of Falling
Practicing Tai Chi can improve your balance and prevent falls. The activity boosts proprioception and confidence, providing core stability in your body. It will make you feel confident during your daily movements without the risk of falling.
Tai Chi in older adults with neurological problems and Parkinson’s disease is effective in providing balance by targeting the strength of their legs, reflexes, range of motion, and flexibility. It makes them feel sturdier when standing on their feet, easing their fear of falling.
It Improves Cardiovascular Health
Although Tai Chi is not intense, it can help improve your cardiovascular health. According to the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, when Tai Chi focuses on relaxation, it can lower your blood pressure, increase good cholesterol in the body, reduce triglyceride levels and improve the quality of life for older people with heart failure and those who’ve survived a heart attack.
It Improves Cognitive Function
Tai Chi increases brain volume, delayed dementia, memory retention, and thinking and is very beneficial to patients with cognitive impairment. It slows the cognitive decline in older people with mild dementia and also improves their quality of life.
It Reduces Depression and Anxiety
Studies have confirmed that Tai Chi exercises can help to reduce depression and anxiety in seniors. The positive outcomes of the practice are seen when patients experience benefits such as stress relief, improved mood, raised levels of mood-enhancing endorphins, and relaxed muscles, which create a sense of overall well-being for the participant.
How to Do Tai Chi for Elders
Before taking any Tai Chi exercises, you should first consult with your doctor to determine the type of Tai Chi suitable for your condition. The doctor will help you find a balance between your treatment and taking Tai Chi classes. The best way to start practicing is through a live class with instructors. It is easier to receive feedback this way.
After learning the basics of the practice, you can go for regular classes and focus on the purpose of the exercise. A certified instructor will guide you on ways to ensure you follow the doctor’s advice as you enjoy your lessons.
A breathing exercise is important when practicing Tai Chi.
As a beginner, you’ll be introduced to a breathing exercise first. The instructor will direct you on how to maintain deep, repetitive breathing in through your nose and to exhale through your mouth without stopping.
You’ll do this as you expand your belly and chest when inhaling to make room for a lot of air. While exhaling, you’ll be squeezing your stomach gently. Make sure you relax all parts of your body all the time. Note that because of your age and physical condition, you should take frequent breaks.
Breathing exercise includes standing in a neutral position that will help to release any tension from the body and provide balance—your posture matters during the exercise.
Tai Chi has variations of exercises that allow you to change directions, breathing techniques, postures, and more. The movements focus mainly on cycles and energy. You’ll enjoy Tai Chai when you have loose, lightweight clothing that’ll allow you the flexibility of movement.
When starting out, you can attend lessons once or twice every week and develop a habit that will lead to daily attendance. Progress gradually learning new techniques at a time until your balance, coordination, and flexibility gets better. It might take you about three months to notice changes to your mind and body.
Precautions Before Learning Tai Chi/Beginner Tips
Tai Chi exercise is meant to improve your mental and physical health as you age. Therefore, you have to take precautions to ensure you achieve your health goals without any complications.
The following precautions can help you train as well as stay healthy.
Get a Certified Instructor
Although you can learn Tai Chi from resources on the internet, having a certified instructor will help you achieve more, as they’ll be able to train you on the right moves and correct you when necessary. They’ll also explain the principles of every move and answer any queries you may have.
If you have a health condition, an instructor will follow the doctor’s recommendations by practicing the right movements. This will help you avoid aggravating your condition any further.
Understand Your Limitations
If you experience difficulty with some movements, you should not force it. You don’t need to overstretch and attract more complications or stress. Also, Tai Chi is best practiced on an empty stomach. You cannot do it when you’re tired or have just recently recovered from an infection.
Tai Chi is supposed to boost your energy levels, reduce your arthritic pain, feel happy and calm, and make you sleep well. If you feel overwhelmed, then don’t do it.
While Tai Chi brings about plenty of benefits for you, to enjoy it, you have to take it steady and slow. Before you start your sessions, you should understand that the exercise can exhaust your joints and muscles constantly. It is vital that you warm up well before your sessions and cool down and get lots of rest afterward.
Here are some takeaways:
- Always remember to adhere to your doctor’s advice and recommendations.
- Work with an expert who can help you master the skill gradually.
- Start slowly as you progress.
- Monitor your progress all the time.
- Healthline: 11 Ways Tai Chi Can Benefit Your Health
- Harvard Health: The health benefits of tai chi
- Tai Chi Health: Mind/Body Exercise with Tricia Yu
- PubMed: The Beneficial Effects of Tai Chi Chuan on Blood Pressure and Lipid Profile and Anxiety Status in a Randomized Controlled Trial
- Medicare: 5 Health Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors
- Great Senior Living: Tai Chi for Seniors: Benefits, Beginner Tips, and Resources
- wikiHow Fitness: How to Do Tai Chi for Seniors (with Pictures)
- FitDay: Feeling Nauseous? These Tips May Help Alleviate the Symptoms / Fitness
- PubMed: The Effects of Tai Chi on Depression, Anxiety, and Psychological Well-Being: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
- The elbowroom: Boost Your Energy With Tai Chi