5 Potential Health Benefits Of Tai Chi

5 Potential Health Benefits Of Tai Chi

Often described as “meditation in motion,” tai chi is an ancient Chinese mind-body practice. It was traditional a form of martial arts, but growing evidence suggests that tai chi may be an effective remedy for symptoms of various health problems. You can start practicing tai chi even if you aren’t in the best shape or health. It is a low-impact, slow-motion form of exercise that you can do at your own pace. 

As a moving mind-body exercise, tai chi introduces gentle, repetitive movements that you couple with breathing. During your movements, you integrate mental focus, body awareness, imagery, and visualization. The unique physical and mental element to tai chi is why it may benefit your overall health. Although it is best known for relieving stress, tai chi may also help reduce blood sugar and soothe pain and other related symptoms. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) notes that tai chi is like other forms of exercise in that regard. 

You do not have to subscribe to or spend your years learning about tai chi’s roots in Chinese philosophy to enjoy the benefits. The following concepts, however, can help you make sense of the approach to tai chi. 

  • Qi – an energy or life force that flows throughout the body. Tai chi is said to be able to unblock and encourage qi’s proper flow.
  • Yin and yang – the belief is that these opposing elements make up the universe and should be kept in harmony. Tai chi is thought to promote this balance. 

May Reduce Risk Of Falling

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 25% of adults over age 65 fall at least once a year. These types of falls send about three million older adults to the emergency room every year. Some falls are minor, while others lead to broken bones, hospitalizations, or traumatic brain injuries. Tai chi is a very effective exercise that helps improve core strength and balance. A systematic review and meta-analysis from 2017 observed nearly 4,000 people, half of which practiced tai chi while the other half were in a control group that didn’t practice. The group that practiced were 20% less likely to fall than the control group. 

May Contribute To Healthy Aging

Nobody wants to feel 75 when they are 40, which is why health experts always encourage people to exercise daily. If lifting weights is not feasible and you don’t want to run, tai chi is an excellent way to move your body as an older adult. It can help you build confidence in the body’s ability to carry out certain tasks with ease. In fact, a large-scale systematic review examined 89 studies that concluded tai chi was able to improve physical function, psychologic health, and mobility. Another systematic review indicated that tai chi may improve physical functioning in elderly individuals with sarcopenia (loss of muscle and strength with aging). 

May Improve Bone Health In Post-Menopausal Women

Menopause leads to bone loss, and about 50% of post-menopausal women will develop osteoporosis. Eating a balanced diet, prioritizing exercise, limiting alcohol, and other lifestyle changes can help preserve your bones. In regards to exercise, tai chi involves great low-impact movements that may enhance your wellness routine. A 2022 review found that practicing tai chi for at least six months minimized bone loss. More research is necessary, but the initial results are promising. Additionally, tai chi helps improve balance and overall strength, two things that reduce your risk of falls. 

May Improve Heart Health

According to several studies, most exercise benefits heart function. A 2021 randomized trial observed middle-aged to older adults who practiced Wu-style tai chi for six weeks, in addition to their regular medicine plans. The results indicate a greater improvement in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and systolic blood pressure, compared to the group that practiced a more simplified style of tai chi. A systematic meta-analysis from November 2022 looked at seven randomized controlled trials of 503 hypertensive participants. The participants that did five 60-minute sessions of tai chi per week lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers. 

May Boost Cognitive Function

As stated throughout the article, tai chi is a mind-body exercise. It has been known to help reduce stress and improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. A past meta-analysis confirmed the mood-boosting benefits of short-term and long-term tai chi practice. For most of those studies, people practiced tai chi two to three times per week for 40-60 minutes per session. Researchers observed psychological benefits across healthy individuals, and those who had pre-existing health problems. Although tai chi may benefit psychological health, more research is necessary to determine how it can boost cognition with aging. 

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