My first glimpse of tai chi was accidental. Cycling to work one day, I saw a group of people doing a series of movements in a park as the sun was rising. To satisfy my curiosity, I did a quick internet search later that day and learned that these people were improving balance, flexibility, and strength while reducing stress through tai chi.
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese practice with martial art origins, that involves low-impact, slow-motion movements. It is commonly known as meditation in motion and is a safe for all ages and abilities.
Here’s how tai chi benefits your health:
- Balance: balance plays a large part in helping to prevent falls and injuries, making it important to maintain (and improve) as we age. The one-legged stances of tai chi are great for practicing balance! Before trying tai chi, be sure to tell your instructor if you have poor balance and consider having a wall or sturdy chair nearby for support.
- Muscle Strength: the movement of lunging helps improve muscle strength. Did you know that it’s common for muscle strength and size to decrease from age 30 onwards if unused? This is where the old saying, “use it or lose it” comes in. Studies show muscle strength helps with longevity and keeping independence as we age. Tai chi is a great way to improve muscle strength!
- Flexibility: tai chi includes gentle stretches which increase flexibility. Flexibility allows you to move in a full range of motion which is needed, for example, when reaching for an item that is up high or tying your shoes.
- Relaxation: it may sound like common sense, but proper breathing is extremely important. Taking deep breaths and slow movements in the calm atmosphere tai chi provides is good for mental health and most likely helps you relax and lower stress.
Classes are offered at many community centres and private organizations. I strongly encourage you seek guidance from a qualified instructor to learn the proper techniques to help reduce your chance of injury and ensure an enjoyable experience. And if you’re up for it, compliment your tai chi lessons with aerobic activities, such as walking briskly or cycling to your class. If you have questions about tai chi or anything else related to physical activity, contact us at the Physical Activity Line.
I’m off to my tai chi class. Will you try it? Tell us how it goes!
HealthLinkBC: Tai Chi and Qi Gong