Seniors can hardly deny that getting exercise is essential but not all have found a program of movement that inspires enthusiasm. The legendary Jack LaLanne has motivational words for all of us about exercise:
“It’s a lifestyle, it’s something you do the rest of your life. How long are you going to keep breathing? How long do you keep eating? You just do it.”
Whether you are looking for a new type of workout or you haven’t found one that that’s right for you, why not familiarize yourself with benefits of tai chi, the world’s most popular form of exercise? As part of Dimensions Wellness at Discovery Village, an assisted living and retirement community for seniors, Tai Chi Class is currently offered and is packed with benefits.
What Is Tai Chi?
In its most simple form, tai chi is an exercise that involves graceful physical movement, breathing, and mental focus.
Once strictly a phenomenon in China, tai chi is a practice that is popular literally all across the planet. Tai chi is very similar to yoga but differs in that tai chi was designed for self-defense. These days, however, tai chi is typically practiced for the stress relief and health benefits it provides, not for purposes of self-defense.
Tai chi is “meditation in motion,” which correctly implies that it involves the mind and the physical outer life. If you are uncomfortable with the reference to “meditation,” hang here a bit longer to discover tai chi’s common sense and practical benefits, especially since geriatricians in the U.S. increasingly recommend tai chi to their patients.
Why Doctors Recommend Tai Chi to Seniors
Tai chi is a well-established wellness routine, having been around longer than yoga. Through the centuries, evidence has piled up which shows that the mind-body practice of tai chi can treat and prevent many different kinds of health problems. In fact, according to Harvard Health Publications, it would be appropriate to refer to tai chi as “medication in motion.” Who can argue with the idea that medication that does not come out of a bottle or syringe is the best kind? More and more doctors in the Western world are on board with recommending tai chi to their elderly patients.
Tai chi is easy to adapt to anyone, no matter what physical shape they are in, which is why it is a fitting prescription for those recovering from surgery, those who are wheelchair-bound, the most physically fit individuals, and everyone in between. There are no forced movements in tai chi, and muscles are in a state of relaxation rather than tension. Good news for people with joint problems: In tai chi, the joints are not fully bent or extended, nor are connective tissues stretched.
Health Benefits of Tai Chi
The U.S. National Institute of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine recognizes tai chi as an important alternative health care practice, and groups are gathering to practice tai chi in hospitals, community centers, and parks in cities across America. Perhaps even more importantly, research shows that there are millions of people who practice tai chi, and they live more active lives than their peers who don’t.
The gentle, graceful movements of tai chi provide amazing benefits and belie the oft-repeated saying, “no pain – no gain.” Tai chi helps to improve:
- Range of motion,
- Relaxation, and
In addition to insomnia, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and more, the following are some of the medical conditions tai chi can help with:
Arthritis. Studies have shown that an hour of tai chi twice weekly for 12 weeks provides relief for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, severe knee osteoarthritis, and debilitating ankylosing spondylitis. Arthritic patients tend to experience less pain and better physical functioning and are in higher spirits as a result of practicing tai chi.
Osteoporosis. Numerous studies have indicated that exercising tai chi can safely and effectively maintain good bone density in women who are postmenopausal.
Parkinson’s Disease. After 20 sessions of tai chi, people who have mild to moderately severe cases of Parkinson’s disease have experienced improved walking ability, balance, and overall well-being.
Shingles. Anyone who has had chickenpox at any point in their life could develop shingles, a virus characterized by a blistering, painful skin rash. When tai chi is combined with the varicella vaccine, patients have experienced double the immunity of those in studies that did not practice tai chi. This makes sense because symptoms of shingles are believed to be directly tied to stress, and tai chi helps to reduce stress.
Are you convinced that tai chi is an exercise worth checking out? Contact your Activities Director to inquire. Why wait to feel better? Remember LaLanne’s admonition about exercising and let’s get to work!
Discovery Village at Sugarloaf offers a variety of senior living programs to keep seniors healthy and active. Learn about our senior living options and amenities today when you contact us at 770.232.3008.