Have you ever seen a group of individuals at a park moving slowly with their arms floating in space while peacefully gazing into the distance? They must have been doing Tai Chi, a martial art originating in China thousands of years ago.
It has now become a full-body exercise favored by many due to its promising health benefits for people of all ages. While getting enough physical activities can be challenging for older adults with limitations or frailer limbs, Tai Chi is an ideal exercise for the wellness and well-being of the aging population. Read on to discover the 7 benefits of Tai Chi for seniors.
The Benefits of Practicing Tai Chi as We Age
What Is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi, or Tai Ji Quan, is an exercise system rooted in China during the 12th century A.D. Over the millennia, it started as an ancient martial/fighting art practiced for defense training to an increasingly popular form of physical exercise. Today, the centuries-old practice is a proven form of exercise favored among people of all ages due to its effectiveness in promoting wellness and improving health.
The low-intensity practice fosters relaxation through slow and synchronized physical postures, deep breathing techniques, and mental concentration. It helps practitioners create harmony between their mind, body, and spirit, improving different aspects of health.
In a way, many describe Tai Chi as a form of mindfulness practice. The low-intensity exercise demands practitioners to inhale and exhale as deeply and naturally as possible, cultivating a sense of relaxation and harmonious spiritual energy throughout the body.
Tai Chi was based on the tenets of the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, citing that everything has two contrasting elements: yin and Yang. Yin stands for passiveness, slowness, softness, and feminine energy. Conversely, Yang corresponds to dominant energy, masculinity, strength, or rigidness. Five family types of Tai Chi include Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun, and Hao styles.
Health Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors
Unlike other forms of exercise, which strongly adopt the “no pain, no gain” mentality that encourages overexertion, Tai Chi practitioners get to decide how far they want to go with Tai Chi to achieve their fitness goals. While muscle soreness is common among enthusiastic gym goers, Tai Chi is all about safety, comfort, and relaxation.
Since Tai Chi pursues minimal stress on muscles and joints, anyone can learn it! This core mechanism makes Tai Chi a safe, practical physical activity for older adults who find themselves unsuitable for traditional exercises due to health concerns.
Tai Chi has been shown to have immense health benefits for practitioners, from lowering anxiety, boosting focus, and promoting cardiovascular health to preventing falls and improving quality of life. Not only is it prevention for many health concerns, but it also serves as a helpful tool for managing existing or chronic conditions in older adults. Find below for more possible health benefits of Tai Chi for seniors.
Weakened immunity is another aging issue amongst seniors, making it easier for them to get sick and take longer to recover. Much like other exercises, Tai Chi offers a significant benefit in strengthening the immune system. According to a study, seniors having Tai Chi routines respond better to influenza shots. Another study also discovered that older adults who practice Tai Chi responded similarly to the shingles vaccine compared to juniors who are 30 years younger.
Promotes Bone Health
Thinning bones is no breaking news among seniors. The loss of bone equates to a higher risk of osteoporosis, making bones more likely to break. Fractures at older ages are fairly concerning as the in-body bone rebuilding cycle often slows down with age. It leads to longer bed rest or homebound periods, which can be detrimental to health and mental wellness.
Can Tai Chi promote bone health? Making bones stronger and preventing fractures is one of the possible health benefits of Tai Chi for seniors, following many studies. One of the most notable ones is a study on the effect of Tai Chi on 132 postmenopausal women. These women performed Tai Chi 45 minutes daily, five days/week, and for a year. At the end of the study, their bone loss rates decreased by 3.5 times compared to those who didn’t practice Tai Chi. Scientists also saw improvements in their bone density.
Improves Balance and Flexibility
Balance issues are major health concerns for all seniors. Tai Chi’s emphasis on awareness of postural movements and core strength makes it useful for seniors’ balance and flexibility. This is because low-impact exercise strengthens all body parts and physical components for a person to stay upright.
Improvements in balance and proprioception help them stand on their feet, minimizing their risks of fatal falls and subsequent slow-healing injuries. It has been revealed that Tai Chi can reduce seniors’ fall risks by up to 45%, with another recent finding discovering that tailored Tai Chi programs can be particularly beneficial for people losing the ability to stand balanced and suffering from diminished physical functions brought on by Parkinson’s disease.
Relieves Pain and Discomfort
Any exercise could relieve pain, and Tai Chi is no exception. However, this Ancient Chinese exercise is a far better option because some particular activities are inappropriate for seniors’ frailer bodies.
Many studies have shown that older adults suffering from arthritic pain can significantly benefit from Tai Chi. Without too much pressure on the joints and overall body frame, seniors can retain their flexibility and range of motion and avoid unnecessary injury when doing Tai Chi, preventing further soreness and discomfort due to tightening muscles and stiff joints over time.
Supports Weight Loss
Due to its slow and steady movements, most people don’t consider Tai Chi a proper exercise for losing weight. However, the real answer can be far from common misconceptions, as a study has proven otherwise. The study randomized 374 participants into three categories: Tai Chi, self-paced walking, and controlled training for 45 minutes/day, 5 days/week, and 12 weeks. One hundred twenty-four participants from the Tai Chi group lost 0.50 kilograms of body weight and 0.40 kilograms of fat mass.
While it is quite impressive that a moderate-intensity activity can significantly impact weight management, scientists have suspected that Tai Chi’sChi’s meditative effect might play a role in suppressing hunger. Many people turn to food or alcohol to find comfort when under lots of stress, thereby gaining more weight in the process. With Tai Chi providing calmness and more peace of mind, practitioners feel less stressed. Therefore they are less likely to overeat or overdrink.
Getting up and moving is one of many effective drug-free solutions to having good nights’ sleep, considering that sleep support supplements and pills may cause fogginess in seniors. A study has found that older adults who engaged in Tai Chi Chih experienced better sleep than those who practiced sleep hygiene before bedtime.
Increases Social Interaction
Expanding social networks is another benefit of Tai Chi that many fail to recognize. Engaging in Tai Chi activities gives older adults more opportunities to venture outside, connect with new people, and discuss exciting topics while improving their general health. This is especially beneficial for those who lead a sedentary lifestyle, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.
If you have questions about the benefits of tai chi for seniors or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks senior living communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.
For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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