Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art form that originated in China many centuries ago. Over the years, tai chi has gained popularity worldwide and has been adopted for various purposes like sports training, defense, and so much more.
The concept of tai chi mainly revolves around meditation, breathing, and careful movement. It is generally termed as meditation in motion and comes with both slow and fast-paced movements.
Tai chi for seniors comes with numerous health benefits such as weight loss, reduced stress, improved concentration levels, and many other benefits that will help to improve the overall well-being of our body and mind.
1. Different Styles of Tai Chi
The origin of all the different styles of tai chi can be traced back to the original Chen family style of art. Gradually they evolved into different paces, rhythms, and postures.
Some of the most commonly practiced tai chi styles all around the world include:
1.1. Yang Style
Yang style is the most popular and widely practiced style of all the others. This style majorly focuses on slow, graceful, and relaxed movements to improve one’s flexibility.
The best part about the Yang style is that it is low impact and is ideal for individuals of all ages, including children, adults, beginners, and people with limited mobility or individuals who are recovering from any injury.
1.2. Wu Style
The Wu style is the second most popular style after yang. This style focuses more on the micro-movements of the body. Also, the slow pace of this style makes it very apt for beginners.
1.3. Chen Style
Considered the oldest of all styles, Chen’s style shifts between both slow and fast-paced movements. The nature of Chen style is said to be such a way that it makes for a good cardio workout, thereby strengthening and tightening our muscles. However, this style is not generally suggested for beginners.
1.4. Sun Style
The sun style looks a lot like the Chen style. However, it involves less rigorous physical movements when compared to the former, and it is considered the gentlest of all styles.
Sun style is more graceful and does not involve much jumping, kicking, and punching. It is ideal for the elderly as it is not physically demanding or exhausting.
1.5. Hao Style
The Hao style is more of a combination of the Yang and Chen style. It is a more advanced and lesser-known style where the exercises are done in small segments with high postures and smoother movements.
In this style, more emphasis is placed on internal strength and accurate movements. Therefore, it is not individuals at the beginner level.
Some of these tai chi styles are inclined towards maintaining good health, while others place more emphasis on defending themselves and competition.
However, people who are considering adopting any of the above-mentioned styles should discuss with an experienced instructor to get an idea about the ideal style suited for them and the benefits that come along with it.
2. The Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors
Tai chi for seniors comes with numerous health benefits. Here is a list of how tai chi can improve the overall quality of life and reduce the undesirable effects caused by the aging process.
2.1. Stress Reduction
One of the key benefits of tai chi for seniors is stress reduction. A study in 2018 found that practicing tai chi provided the same benefits of exercise used for anxiety and stress. This is because tai chi places more emphasis on meditation and focused breathing.
The research also found tai chi superior to other forms of exercise used to reduce stress and anxiety.
Also, unlike other forms of exercise, Tai chi is very accessible, inexpensive, has a lower impact, and is one of the best options for experiencing any stress-related anxiety.
2.2. Aids in Better Sleep
Tai chi for seniors can work wonders, and one of them is a peaceful night’s sleep. Practicing tai chi regularly helps one to get better and more relaxed sleep.
This can be very beneficial, especially for individuals who are suffering from insomnia. Also, it comes with the added advantage of being an organic method to get sleep, unlike the others, which use many drugs causing long-term side effects in individuals.
A research study on Sleep discovered that seniors who practiced Tai Chi experienced significant improvements in their sleeping habits compared to others.
2.3. Helps with Weight Loss
Tai chi for seniors promotes weight loss. The slow moments in tai chi are why it is ideal for seniors aspiring to lose weight.
According to MyFitnessPal, one can burn around 270 calories an hour doing tai chi, which is more effective than yoga or brisk walking.
Also, the mindfulness achieved through tai chi helps individuals keep control of their body’s hunger cues.
2.4. Relief from Arthritis
Tai chi for seniors is ideal for workout exercises because of its low impact and gentle movements. Their exercises are generally good for arthritis, and joint movements help retain their range of action, thereby not stiffening it further.
Tai chi movements are also effective in treating conditions like osteoporosis and fibromyalgia. Apart from these, tai chi can greatly help people with a bad back as it can restore mobility to the spine without much jarring activity. Likewise, tai chi can also increase hamstring flexibility and also improve our core strength.
It is always important to consult with a doctor before practicing tai chi in case one has arthritis, as some may need to do modified versions of some of the movements.
2.5. Lowers the Risk of Falling in Seniors
One of the major benefits of tai chi for seniors is that it enhances balance and motor function, reducing the fear of falling in older individuals. It also gradually reduces the fall rates after 16 weeks of practice.
At times, the fear of falling can take over our lives as it can cause a decline in our quality of life and reduce our independence.
A research study in the Journal of Aging Research has noted that tai chi for seniors boosts their confidence and makes them more aware of where their bodies are in space, thereby increasing their confidence and making them less likely to fall.
2.6. Better Posture
Our posture gradually changes over the years as we age. It is not only about how we look at the outside world, but posture can greatly influence our mobility and breathing patterns.
One of the major benefits of tai chi for seniors is that it strengthens the core, which positively affects posture. Also, tai chi improves our focus which will help us to carry ourselves in a better way.
2.7. Enhanced Immunity
As we age, our immune system starts to fail us and becomes less efficient. Tai chi for seniors offers an opportunity to fight against this aspect of aging.
A study in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine found that older adults who practice tai chi regularly have a better immune response to flu shots.
2.8. Improved Heart Health
Though tai chi does not seem like a typical aerobic exercise, this ancient Chinese martial art form emphasizes an individual’s oxygen intake, attention of the mind, and balance – all the key areas that strengthen our cardiovascular health.
Apart from that, tai chi greatly helps individuals who have been affected by stroke and heart attacks by facilitating a faster recovery. Practicing tai chi regularly is also good for high blood pressure as it calms them down and relaxes them.
A study conducted by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine revealed that tai chi improved the overall quality of life for individuals with heart-related ailments and helped them increase good cholesterol levels while being a safe form of exercise for people with heart problems.
2.9. Cognitive Benefits
According to a study in Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, tai chi for seniors has been proven to slow down the process of cognitive decline in people with mild dementia.
Tai chi for seniors can also improve the overall quality of life by providing meaningful social contact with others.
2.10. Social Interaction
Lastly, the most interesting part of tai chi for seniors is that it’s fun and engaging. Even if one doesn’t excel in tai chi, one can make some amazing memories and carry home valuable friendships at the end of the day.
Read more about the benefits of tai chi for seniors
Tai chi for seniors is a low-impact, ideal exercise for the elderly that comes with numerous health benefits, and it is said to improve the overall well-being of one’s body and mind. However, it is advisable to discuss this with a doctor before embarking on any new exercise routine.
3. Frequently Asked Questions
3.1. What is the best tai chi for seniors?
Yang’s style of tai chi is the most adaptable style for people. This style can be suitable for seniors with low mobility or for people who are just starting, for a gentle impact.
3.2. How many minutes of tai chi can be done per day?
Like any other general exercise, tai chi can be done for around 20-30 minutes every day.
3.3. What clothes to wear for tai chi?
Wear very simple, loose and comfortable clothes. There will be a physical activity that involves calmness. Therefore, it is important to feel as comfortable as possible, with your clothes as well.
3.4. What is difficult about tai chi?
If you have gained enough experience with tai chi, it will not be difficult. However, at the beginning of the practice, you have to take care of maintaining posture and movements of tai chi as they can be complicated if you are not used to it.
3.5. Is tai chi good for arthritis?
Yes! Tai chi is considered to be beneficial for arthritis. Tai chi helps in attaining flexibility and improves the strength of your muscles and bones. Also, tai chi has gentle movements which will not be harsh on your body.
Marilyn Rose A. Lacorte, RN (Medical Professional, Proofreading)