Tai Chi (also referred to as Taiji, Tai Chi Chuan and Taijiquan) provides a gentle, full-body workout unlike most other forms of exercise.
Tai Chi has a fluid, dance-like quality that makes it appear effortless, although it’s not. When combined with deep breathing, the slow motion and graceful flow result in a feeling of quiet alertness that is both relaxing and refreshing. Research suggests that practicing Tai Chi can help ease stress, anxiety, depression and sleep problems.
While Tai Chi is not generally considered to be aerobic, it has nevertheless been found to improve cardiovascular health, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Imagine that! Aerobic benefits without all the huffing and puffing!
Tai Chi works your whole body from head to toe, loosening muscles and lubricating joints. As a result, Tai Chi improves flexibility and mobility, and relaxes tense muscles. Experts recommend Tai Chi for people with arthritis, headaches, fibromyalgia and other types of chronic pain.
A key component of Tai Chi is developing an awareness of where your weight is balanced and learning to control your body as you shift your balance slowly and smoothly from one leg to the other. Tai Chi also improves coordination as you train your muscles to move through each sequence of carefully choreographed forms. Added bonus: Memorizing the sequence of movements gives your brain a workout, which may help keep your memory sharp.
Tai Chi is practiced in a bent-knee stance, which results in a muscle-strengthening, weight-bearing workout for your legs. Strong leg muscles combined with improved balance lowers the risk of falls as you get older, while weight-bearing exercises improve bone health and help stave off osteoporosis.
If the idea of meditation appeals to you, but the thought of sitting still for long periods does not, Tai Chi may be the answer. In the hurricane of life, Tai Chi offers a quiet center of stillness to which to retreat and in which to relax and re-energize.
Note: While a growing body of research suggests that Tai Chi offers many health benefits, your individual experience may vary. If you have a medical condition, you should always seek the advice of a medical professional before starting Tai Chi.