Tai Chi’s benefits are widespread and with daily practice can be realised by all.
Here are 5 of those benefits:
1. Muscle strength
Tai chi can improve both lower-body strength and upper-body strength. When practiced regularly, tai chi can be comparable to resistance training and brisk walking.
“Although you aren’t working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in tai chi strengthens your upper body,” says internist Dr. Gloria Yeh, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. “Tai chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.”
2. Tai chi boosts your immune system
Nothing does more to put a dampener on happiness than feeling ill – and tai chi can help ward off all sorts of lurgies by strengthening your immune system.
UCLA researchers carried out a study involving 112 healthy people with the average age of 70. Half of the volunteers attended three, 40-minute tai chi sessions a week. After four months, both groups were given the chickenpox vaccine. The researchers tested the study subjects’ blood to assess how active T cells (white blood cells, vital to the immune system) were in response to the chickenpox virus. The tests were done at intervals during the study, over 25 weeks.
The T cell activity levels of the tai chi group had risen 38% by the end of the study, compared with a 28% increase for people in the control group.
One reason for tai chi’s strong effect on the immune system, which the researchers thought may explain the results, is that it combines exercise, relaxation, and meditation. They theorised that tai chi enhances T cell activity by quieting the nervous system’s “fight or flight” response, which can, in some circumstances, interfere with the immune system.
3. Tai chi takes your mind to its happy place
Stress and anxiety have a potent effect on health and happiness. Sufferers can become isolated and depressed and may find it hard to sleep. Over time, this can also trigger physical health problems, including IBS, high blood pressure and cardiovascular conditions.
Tai chi is a meditative, mindful exercise, which is ideal for quietening the mind, alleviating stress and anxiety. The slow movements, along with focused breathing, reduce the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body, stopping the domino effect that occurs when symptoms of the nervous system trigger physical disorders.
Tai chi can boost upper- and lower-body flexibility as well as strength.
Tai chi improves balance and, according to some studies, reduces falls. Proprioception — the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space — declines with age. Tai chi helps train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments and connective tissues of the body’s fascia system. Tai chi also improves muscle strength and flexibility, which makes it easier to recover from a stumble. Fear of falling can make you more likely to fall; studies have found that tai chi training helps reduce that fear.
How does Tai Chi work?
Tai Chi is a way of movement and meditation that originates from Traditional Chinese Medicine, Martial Arts and Philosophy. It is a practical way to transform the Health of the Mind, Body and Spirit. Practised in a quiet, relaxed and concentrated way by the whole body, which helps to increase the flow of blood and Chi throughout the body’s internal organs, meridians, muscles, joints and soft tissues. Which in turn helps the body to relax and let go of unwanted tensions, clears the mind and increases energy levels whilst strengthening your core/center, helps to maintain a flexible spine, a supple loose, strong, and well coordinated body.
Matthew Berry is the founder of West Wales Tai Chi.