If you’re nearing your late forties or heading into your fifties, consider adding Tai Chi sessions twice weekly to your fitness routine.
The health benefits of Tai Chi are extraordinary. Some studies show the practice improves your mental health. Also, Tai Chi classes can reduce the risk of falls, positively impact your immune system, and increase your fitness level.
While any physical activity is better than none, Tai Chi forms help improve balance and are a low-impact form of exercise. The first time you do Tai Chi, you will be amazed at how much muscle strength it takes to practice this moving meditation.
Tai Chi can be a lifesaver for those with chronic conditions such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Deep breathing and the slow movement of Tai Chi improve the quality of life when practiced regularly.
What is Tai Chi?
The Chinese have been doing this type of exercise-meditation fusion for thousands of years. It is almost impossible to separate Chinese martial art history from legend. In the beginning, it was reserved for the upper-class.
Although Tai Chi was originally a Martial Art, it is mainly practiced today as an excellent exercise with many health benefits. The words Tai Chi Chuan mean Supreme Ultimate Boxing, used as an exercise for health it would loosely translate as Supreme Ultimate Exercise or Skill. A practice that utilizes breathing, visualizations, and movements to work the entire body all at once. History of Tai Chi
Is Qigong the same as Tai Chi?
T’ai chi requires a higher level of discipline based on forms, much like the forms in kung fu, taekwondo, or karate. Each position requires a specific placement of your knees, feet, and spine. Qigong is less rigid; it is a free-form practice and can be one movement that is repeated for the benefit of a particular body part.
Is Tai Chi a Martial Art?
It is a discipline used by warriors in ancient history. It has its roots in the ancient philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Internal Chinese martial art is practiced for defense training, numerous health benefits, and meditation since 1670.
If you watch closely, you will see that the spiral movements look like slowed down kung fu.
The main difference is in execution. Yoga involves holding poses and postures. Tai chi is performed in a dance-like, martial arts form. Both can be rigorous, or low impact, depending on the person’s fitness level.Yoga vs. Tai Chi
What are the health benefits of Tai Chi in your fifties?
For many women in their fifties, the benefits of tai chi can be phenomenal. It is an excellent way to move your body and a way to reduce stress and anxiety. As a form of low-impact aerobic exercise, the health benefits of tai chi are especially helpful for women experiencing a shift in hormone levels.
Practicing Tai Chi can lower the stress hormone cortisol and increase the production of hGH (human growth hormone), which helps build and repair tissue.
When practiced regularly, Tai Chi has been shown to improve overall health and reduce stress levels. It is correlated with reducing or eliminating symptoms of several major diseases. Knoxville Chinese Culture
Older adults and middle-aged adults can significantly improve quality of life and a sense of well-being by implementing a daily routine that includes Tai Chi. In fact, the findings of one meta-analysis suggest that a person with a low-risk of falling can improve their balance with three months of Tai Chi practice. 1
Another study showed that the practice strengthened the knees and reduced the fear of falling in women with osteoarthritis. In addition, it offered an improvement in bone mineral density. 2
Tai Chi Let’s Exercise in the Park
During my first trip to China, one of the cities we visited was Shanghai. My daughter and I would get up early in the morning to look for coffee. We’d always see groups of people outside practicing Tai Chi on these excursions through the parks and community areas. Later, I read that Tai Chi was the most popular form of exercise in Shanghai among middle-aged and elderly people. 3
On that same trip, we visited Hong Kong, where we walked through many parks packed with people practicing Tai Chi.
While we were there, we did some shopping. Another thing I noticed was the absence of clothing suited for women above US size 8. Truthfully, I found that a US size 8 is hard to find and would be considered extra-large.
Several years later, on a second trip to China, I experienced the same challenge when visiting a silk shop to buy a Cheongsam (a type of dress worn in Chinese culture.) Nothing in my size (a US size 10) was hanging on the rack.
Does Tai Chi Help You Lose Weight?
All of that to say, Asians tend to be slim. Diet does play a role, but so does exercise. Chinese spend more time walking and participating in group exercises such as dancing, Badminton, and of course, Tai Chi. Take a walk through any city park in China, and you’ll eventually come upon older people outside participating in some form of cardio exercise.
During our time in Beijing, people of all ages in the park participated in low impact exercise. Groups of women in their fifties memorizing dance routines to the tune of Little Apple by the Chopstick Brothers. Women in their fifties practice Chinese ribbon dancing, a traditional art form that uses sharp, rhythmic movements and long colorful ribbons. Couples were learning swing dancing.
The side effects of all this movement is a tendency to be slimmer.
Traditional Asian medicine pays much attention to preventing diseases. It seeks to eliminate the root of an illness, while Western medicine works mainly with its consequences. That is why meditation, Tai Chi, and other activities are widely practiced in Asia to prevent the development of certain diseases, including obesity. 10 Reasons Why Asians Are So Slim
Improved Sense of Balance and Agility
Not everyone practicing Tai Chi in the park was elderly, but predominantly middle age and up. The thing is, I didn’t really notice that they were “elderly” until I looked back at my photos. Perhaps because they seemed so elegant, agile, and fit, the ease of movement was visible.
Another noticeable thing was their excellent sense of balance.
T’ai chi is the predominant form of exercise among middle-aged and elderly Chinese in urban China, particularly among those with older age and chronic medical diseases. Future research is needed to see whether t’ai chi has similar or different benefits than conventional forms of exercise, such as walking and jogging.
For this reason, many professionals recommend Tai Chi to help prevent falls; particularly crucial for women with bone loss, osteopenia, and osteoporosis. Many senior centers use Tai Chi as a form of therapy to reduce falls.
Consider learning the different styles as part of your ongoing exercise regiment as a form of prevention.
Using Tai Chi to help you sleep
Clinical trials suggest that the long-term effects of Tai Chi include higher quality sleep. In one such study, participants reported better sleep quality and a better quality of life, notably including the mental health component. The study concluded that the practice can be an excellent alternative to sleeping pills. 4
One of the pillars of good sleep hygiene is incorporating exercise! When presented with the choice between an expensive medication with possible (scary) side effects or practicing Tai Chi, I know which one I would pick!
Can Tai Chi help Fibromyalgia symptoms?
Those with fibromyalgia often experience widespread pain, fatigue, sleeplessness, headaches, stiffness, and other adverse health conditions.
Much research has been conducted on the benefit of Tai Chi in Fibromyalgia patients. Ongoing research is needed to firm up conclusions. Still, past research found that tai chi lessened pain and improved physical and mental health in patients with fibromyalgia. 5
Tai Chi for Back Pain Relief and Arthritis
Multiple trials, studies, and other research have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of Tai Chi on relieving back pain. The Arthritis Foundation and the American College of Physicians listed Tai Chi as an alternative treatment for back pain, as does Harvard Medical School Journal and many others.
Ask your chiropractor if Tai Chi is right for you. If you get the go-ahead, consider journaling your pain level on a scale of 1-10 from the day you start practicing Tai Chi to do your own private research.
Improve Mental Health
Many psychologists and psychiatrists recommend Tai Chi as a form of relaxation technique to benefit the mind-body connection.
Impact of Tai Chi on Parkinson’s Disease
One of the biggest challenges of patients with Parkinson’s Disease is that it affects the brain’s movement center. Because of this, it can be hard to maintain balance and control motor skills. Practicing different styles of Tai Chi can help bring better balance to the body.
Tai chi, a balance-based exercise, has been shown to improve strength, balance, and physical function and to prevent falls in older adults. Two pilot studies suggest that it may also improve Parkinson’s disease’s axial symptoms, such as postural stability. 6
Heart Disease and Blood Pressure
Many studies have been conducted on the effect of Tai Chi on heart health. The results show that consistent practice can help to normalize blood pressure. While the impact is not as significant as you’d see with medication, it is determined that it could result in a multiple point drop in blood pressure.
After pooling data, researchers found that traditional Chinese exercises significantly decreased blood pressure and triglycerides in patients with heart disease. ~ Cardio Smart
When the possibility for improvement is even remotely reasonable, and the risks are virtually non-existent, why not see where it will take you?
Tai Chi for beginners and the 24 forms
Ready to implement Tai Chi into your weekly exercise routine? Me too!
Understanding the yin yang principle in Tai Chi helps you relax and achieve the most balanced mental and physical condition possible. Tension is yang, relaxation is yin. If the body is too yang, it will be stiff, and blood flow will be restricted. ~ Tai Chi Academy
Start with a free lesson from Tai Chi Academy or look for some videos on youtube! Along with other physical exercise forms such as resistance training, Tai Chi can be a useful way to reap many health benefits as we enter our fifties.
Disclaimer: If you have a medical condition, please consult with your physician or another medical professional before engaging in the practice of Tai Chi.