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The Health Benefits Of Tai Chi

For sedentary individuals who want to start exercising, but don’t know where to start, the very idea of the strenuous physical exertion involved in the currently popular fitness programs is probably enough to send them straight back to the couch. If the thought of huffing, puffing, pumping, extreme-stretching, and grimacing your way through a workout makes you want to retreat to the safety of your reclining armchair with a relaxing cup of tea and a jelly doughnut, then tai chi may be the exercise answer for you.

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art practiced with as much softness in the musculature as possible, as opposed to other “hard” martial arts such as taekwondo and kung fu which introduce tension to the muscles. The postures are performed in a smooth, fluid motion, and the movements look like martial arts done underwater or in slow motion.

For those familiar with tai chi, a common misconception is that it is only good for the elderly. While it is a popular form of exercise among the elderly, particularly in China, tai chi has been found to be health-promoting for younger generations as well. In the July-August 2005 issue of the Journal of Pediatric Health Care, an article outlined an educational program that was implemented in a Boston middle school which involved tai chi and mindfulness-based stress reduction. The boys and girls who participated in the program reported the following benefits:

• Feelings of well-being, calmness, and relaxation
• Improved sleep
• Less reactivity
• Increased self-care and self-awareness
• Feelings of interconnectedness and interdependence with nature

While tai chi is a beneficial type of exercise for all age groups, it may be especially appealing to older individuals. The slow pace, relaxed postures, and simple movements make it an easy exercise routine for individuals dealing with a decline in physical performance due to aging or chronic health conditions. Not only is it easy to do, it can also enhance one’s health to a large degree. In the March-April 2006 issue of Alternative Therapies In Health and Medicine, a study was published which found that tai chi helped to improve balance, muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility in only 6 weeks. Further improvements were measured after 12 weeks. The researchers concluded that tai chi is a “potent intervention” which may reverse functional limitations and help individuals to continue living independently.

Another study, published in the March 2006 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, also found that tai chi enhances functional mobility. In addition, this study found that tai chi also enhances regulatory T cell function. T cells are critical to the overall strength of your immune system.

Brisk walking is a popular type of exercise among many individuals, and particularly for older women, but it may be better for your health to take up tai chi. A study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and published in the July 2006 issue of Age and Ageing compared the effects of tai chi versus brisk walking. They found that, over a 3-month period, tai chi was more effective than brisk walking in enhancing certain fitness measures, including lower extremity strength, flexibility, and balance.

The evidence is clear – tai chi can be beneficial for your physical and mental health, no matter how old you are or how much physical ability you possess. Much better for you than a cup of tea and a jelly doughnut.


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I tried tai chi but I find qigong far better. I do falun dafa qigong exercises they work the best. You can learn from a local practioners or from videos. Both are absolutely free.

Tai chi is specifically for opening up our energy centers which in itself brings about balance. Qigong is specifically for inducing the flow of energy which brings health and well being. The combination of both is great.