Tai Chi

I first discovered Tai Chi whilst travelling through Asia where I’d frequently see locals exercising in groups in parks in what looked to be a form of yoga or slowed down martial arts, I later discovered it was known as “Tai Chi”.

Tai Chi is the act of performing a series of gentle stretches and physical exercise.

During Tai Chi, the body is in constant motion, and each posture and position flows into the next without stopping.

What Is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is often dubbed meditation in motion, as it works to combine deep breathing with relaxation, along with a lot of flowing movements, to relax the mind and exercise the body.

Tai Chi is done by performing slow, graceful and always continuous movements and positions that will stretch out your muscles and joints in a gentle manner.

When done accurately, your tai chi positions and poses will all flow together smoothly, without stopping or halting.

Tai Chi is a great way to reduce stress, as you are connecting your mind and body in a calm way, and is now seen as a health-promoting exercise, which is performed around the globe.

Primitively established for self-protection, tai chi has gradually developed into a refined kind of workout and meditation.

Tai Chi Meaning

Tai chi is a poised exercise that bears a Chinese origin.

Despite its Chinese heritage, this exercise has been gaining recognition globally.

It incorporates a succession of motion executed steadily and gently.

It integrates slow but deep breaths and fluid moves.

Since tai chi is not a competitive activity, participants can move at a pace that suits them.

With the progression of organized moves, each stance seamlessly blends in with the subsequent one with no halts.

As tai chi is very tender, it barely strains the muscles.

Consequently, it is an ideal and secure exercise for people of all ages, regardless of their fitness status.

For the seniors, who might be unable or unwilling to work out regularly, tai chi is fitting for them because it is a low-impact exercise.

However, there are diverse kinds of tai chi, each with a specific objective and therefore yielding distinct results.

Why Do Tai Chi?

One of the main benefits of Tai Chi is the tranquility and serenity that this exercise brings.

Tai Chi is an excellent way to clear the mind, and leave your thoughts and feelings flow more clearly.

Tai Chi can also improve your balance and flexibility, as is particularly good for those who struggle with these issues.

In addition, regular practise of Tai Chi can also help improve your mental state, whilst also increasing your muscular strength, agility, flexibility, fitness, and relieve pain in the muscles and joints.

Tai Chi has also been proven to support the muscles and joints, and is essential for facilitating the circulation of blood, body fluid and enhancing your overall wellness, health and feelings.

The meditative exercise has been linked to a range of health benefits such as:

  • Improved flexibility
  • Increased energy and mood
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Better balance – this has also been linked to helping reduce falls in older adults

There are further benefits which are not proven but have been linked to regularly practicing Tai Chi.

These include:

  • Reduced joint pain, particularly in those aged over 65
  • Improved general mobility and posture
  • Better sleep
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Enhanced immune system

What Physical and Mental Improvements Can Tai Chi Bring?

1.       Mood improvement

Tai chi lessens distress and other issues such as anxiety.

This is achieved majorly through calm meditation sessions that help you get in touch with your emotions and spirit.

This subsequently gives you peace and makes you happier.

2.      Pain alleviation

The tender motion incorporated in tai chi lowers pain in some parts of the body such as joints.

It serves as a substitute to some invasive medications, or other activities which are harsh.

3.      Fitness enhancement

Tai chi is an exercise that increases flexibility and is a stamina boost for the body.

The graceful movements involved are particularly impactful on those who are just beginning their physical fitness journey.

4.      Cognition improvement

Especially in older adults, tai chi motion enhances their memory and improves their understanding of whatever is happening within their environment.

5.      Fall reduction

With age comes the risk of falling frequently due to diminishing balance.

Tai chi movements help to sustain balance and enhance mobility.

After a couple of weeks of tai chi, you will begin appreciating these benefits.

Types of Tai Chi

It’s also worth noting that there are five different styles of Tai Chi, and these date back to different periods in history, offering unique methods of practice and principles.

While some forms of Tai Chi (short form for example) focus more on the health and well-being aspect, others focus on self-defense or competition. 

These are:

  • Chen style, which began sometime between 1528 and 1587
  • Yang style, which began sometime between 1799 and 1872
  • Wu or Wu Hao style, which began sometime between 1812 and 1880
  • Wu style, which began sometime between 1870 and 1942
  • Sun style, which began sometime between 1861 and 1932

The Science Behind Tai Chi: Data, Statistics and Scientific Studies

Anyone who practices Tai Chi understands the benefits it brings to their fitness level, balance, and well being but there are also scientific studies that suggest it can have real health benefits…

Tai Chi Can Help Prevent Falls In Older Adults

A study in 2016 from 18 trials with 3824 participants were reviewed saw that groups who participated in Tai Chi compared to groups who did not that Tai Chi is effective at preventing falls in older adults. 

A second study in 2017 showed that Tai Chi may reduce the rate of falls in injury related falls over a 12 month period by 43% and 50% respectively. 

Tai Chi May Have Beneficial Effects On Depression, Anxiety and Stress

A study from 2014 looked at the efficacy of tai chi as a therapy where randomized controlled trials were carried out on various mental health conditions.

Results: The studies demonstrated that Tai Chi could be beneficial on a range of psychological issues ranging from depression to anxiety to stress management. 

Tai Chi May Help With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

A study from 2016 looked at effectiveness of Tai Chi in reducing dyspnoea and improving exercise capacity in people with COPD.

The research looked at 984 participants from 12 studies with an age range from 61 to 74 years.

Results: The study suggests the Tai Chi groups could walk up to 6 minutes longer and better pulmonary function.

No adverse events were reported, implying that Tai Chi is safe to practise in people with COPD

Tai Chi Has Potential To Enhance Cognitive Function

A study from 2014 looked to evaluate research on the effects of Tai Chi on cognitive function in older adults in individuals aged 60 and older in residential care with and without cognitive impairment.

Results: Tai Chi shows potential to enhance cognitive function in older adults, particularly in the realm of executive functioning and in individuals without significant impairment.

Tai Chi May Improve Balance In Stroke Patients

A 2018 study evaluated the effect of Tai Chi exercise on balance function in stroke patients.

Results: There were significant improvements of balance on Berg Balance Scale score (MD=4.823, 95% CI: 2.138-7.508), the standing balance with fall rates (RR=0.300, 95%CI: 0.120-0.770), functional reach test and dynamic gait index in Tai Chi intervention group compared to the control intervention group.

In short, Tai Chi exercise might have a significant impact in improving balance in stroke patients. 

Tai Chi May Be Effective In Fibromyalgia Patients

A 2019 study conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to compare the effectiveness of Tai Chi, 657 patients were included using the fibromyalgia impact questionnaire (FIQ).

Results: Indicated that Tai Chi exerts significant positive effects on reducing the total FIQ score at 12-16 weeks, improving pain score, improving sleep quality, relieving fatigue, alleviating depression, and enhancing quality of life physically and psychologically.

Do These Tai Chi Scientific Studies Give You Faith In Tai Chi?

Hopefully these Tai Chi scientific studies, data and statistics show you that beyond the obvious benefits of Tai Chi there may be real life health improvements to be gained from practicing it.

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