Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that incorporates a series of weight shifting, body rotations, and semi-squat exercises with deep breathing techniques. Learn how its gentle movements are an ideal body and mind exercise for helping older adults stay healthy and fit.
1. Nearly anyone can do it!
Unlike other types of exercise, tai chi is a low-impact, slow-motion exercise that is incredibly safe. Its circular movements keep muscles relaxed with minimal strain on bones and joints. Tai chi may be easily adapted for every age and fitness level, including people confined to wheelchairs, recovering from surgery, or awaiting a heart transplant.
2. Addresses key fitness components.
Regular practice of tai chi’s gentle, physical exercise can improve muscle strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance. Addressing these fitness components may help with age-related issues such as muscle loss, symptoms of arthritis, joint pain, and breathing problems, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
3. Helps reduce falls and improves balance.
Older adults who practice tai chi may reduce their risk of falling by up to 50 percent, according to an analysis published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine also found tai chi to be effective for balance in people with Parkinson’s disease and neurological problems. By targeting leg strength, flexibility, range of motion, and reflexes, tai chi’s exercises may help you feel sturdier on your feet and ease the fear of falling.
4. Improves brain function.
Exercise of all kinds can improve cognitive functioning – and despite being a less aerobic form of exercise – tai chi has also been shown to have brain benefits. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reported that tai chi is linked to increases in brain volume, delayed dementia, and improvements on tests of memory and thinking.
5. Promotes serenity.
Sometimes called “meditation in motion,” tai chi’s deep breathing meditation techniques can help relieve stress and improve feelings of overall well-being. The calming, meditative body movements can help improve breathing efficiency, circulation, and sleep, as well as lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease.
Ready to start tai chi? Contact your local gym, YMCA/YWCA, or fitness center to learn if they offer tai chi classes for seniors. If you are a part of the SilverSneakers program through your Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), various fitness classes may be included in your membership. To learn more about Medicare plans, visit Medicare.org, or contact a licensed sales agent at (888) 815-3313 – TTY 711 for help finding the right Medicare coverage for your needs.