Could Tai Chi be The Best Exercise for Seniors?

Updated 7/24/15 10:30am| Did you ever practice mixed martial arts growing up? Alert1 members and older adults can practice martial arts (outside the dojo) with Tai Chi. You don’t have to worry about the kicking, punching, fighting. Tai Chi is an alternative exercise that promotes wellbeing of the mind, body and spirit. Today Tai Chi has a worldwide following because of the senior benefits and health maintenance. This ancient martial art is the perfect escape for both the mind and body. It's an easy-going exercise that helps seniors get back into action and return to the full swing of things. This article explains why Tai Chi can make you a more active senior.

Physical Health Benefits for Seniors

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Now, a new study from researchers at the University of South Florida and China’s Fudan University has shown that one type of exercise can not onlyincrease balance for seniors, but can also improve their memory and cognitive functions: Tai Chi. Seniors that practice Tai Chi also see improvements in sleep quality and length. Tai Chi can also prevent shingles among older adults. Combined with the varicella vaccine, this ancient art strengthens the immune responses for older adults.

In China, it’s believed that Tai Chi can delay aging in seniors. In addition to prolonging your life, there is also disease prevention associated with this exercise. For instance, Tai Chi helped 39 case subjects improve the flare ups from Fibromyalgia (no known cure). Older adults choose Tai Chi to reverse a sedentary lifestyles and increase aerobic capacity. The risks associated with this exercise are very low with a small likelihood of injury. 

Research studies continue to uncover benefits of this non-aerobic exercise.  Tai chi is particularly beneficial to older adults because it has already been proven to reduce falling risks in seniors. This activity improves balance and leg muscle strength. It’s also suggested that seniors can improve their nerve signals and sensitivity in the ankles and knees. Tai Chi can be particularly valuable to older adults with diabetes, osteoporosis or arthritis – conditions that increase the risk of falling.  

Mental Health Benefits for Seniors

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The Mayo Clinic also recommends tai chi for seniors for its general health benefits. Tai Chi is a gentle way to fight stress, one of the major components of mental illness in older adults. This senior activity is “a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching.” The latest study, released in June 2012, shows that tai chi can increase the size of the brain, potentially delaying or maybe even eliminating dementia in older adults.

Researchers conclude that tai chi requires increased concentration to master a precise sequence of poses. This senior-friendly exercise increases communication between the body and mind. The gestures and movements flow gracefully to ease stress and mental tension. Tai Chi positively stimulates brain growth which is beneficial for older adults. The brain may be more involved in Tai Chi than in other exercise options.  

Start Practicing Tai Chi Today

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Tai chi is low impact, so it can be appropriate for an older adult who does not typically exercise. Of course, a doctor should always be consulted before starting a new exercise regimen of any kind. Alert1 has the following tips on starting Tai Chi:

  • Find a good teacher-Look for a Tai Chi instructor that shows and explains the movements well. You want someone that can explain the concepts of the martial art with easy to follow instructions.
  • Slow Movements-You want to avoid tension in your muscles or frame while exercising. Relaxed, centrally connected movements are ideal in form.
  • Daily Practice-Schedule a regular routine to improve your psychological and physiological health. This exercise should be as common to seniors who regularly brush their teeth.
  • Take Your Time-Quality is better than quantity. Knowing two or three poses and perfecting the movements is more important than knowing multiple poses to a limited extent.
  • Standing Meditation-Yichuan is a posture you can practice daily for meditation. It takes practice to really connect to this minimal stance, but it’s essential in removing distraction and improving mental health.

So the next time you’re at the park, look for a group of seniors going through an elegant sequence of tai chi moves. Maybe even stop by for a minute and join the group! If you stick with it the physical mental health benefits can be life changing.

Alert1 wants to know - have you tried tai chi?  What did you like or not like about it?