Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors | Health & Exercise | The Physio Co
For seniors, Tai Chi has become a popular and effective type of exercise that Australians everywhere are embracing.
Though this may seem like a relatively new form of exercise, Tai Chi actually has its roots in ancient Chinese martial arts.
Tai Chi emphasises slow, controlled and smooth-flowing movements. Despite having a slow pace, it cultivates inner strength. Much like water flowing in a river, where beneath the tranquil surface there is a current with immense power, the ageing body has a huge amount of potential that might not be realised.
There are numerous health benefits in engaging in regular exercise in general, so we’d always recommend finding activities that you enjoy and will follow consistently. Tai Chi could be just right for you.
7 Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors
While there are many health benefits of Tai Chi for seniors (and younger generations), here are 7 of the best, to give you an idea:
1. Prevents falls
Many recent high-quality research studies have consistently provided compelling evidence that Tai Chi is effective in reducing the risk of falls and preventing falls.
This is because Tai Chi involves:
- A change in your base of support, weight bearing and weight transfer
Participants sometimes need to take a bigger step, sometimes smaller, or even stand on one limb. The intentional weight redistribution creates challenges to improve balance.
- Toe clearance
During Tai Chi sessions, participants are always encouraged to take a step with their toes pointed up towards themselves, landing with their heels first. This helps in building good habits for walking, strengthening the muscles that prevent toes from catching on the floor, which can contribute to falls among seniors and the elderly.
- Change of direction
Participants move forwards, backwards and sideways in Tai Chi sessions. These are the directions required for daily activities, such as hanging the washing on the line, moving along the bench when completing tasks in the kitchen or taking a step backwards in crowded places. Frequent practice in changing directions improves the body’s ability to adjust to directional change.
2. Builds muscle strength in the legs
In a Tai Chi class, most movements are performed standing up, sometimes even with a mini-squat. To complete the class, it is a low-intensity lower limb workout within itself.
3. Improves mental focus, visualisation and co-ordination
Tai Chi movements are not innate, so they will take time to learn and may feel unnatural at first. One needs to focus to study the movements, then visualise and co-ordinate arms and legs to perform. This can help with training or maintaining mental focus, the ability to visualise and co-ordinate movements in our older years.
4. Helps to reduce blood pressure
Research has shown that after performing 50 minutes of Tai Chi, three times a week for 12 weeks, people with high to normal blood pressure showed a significant decrease in blood pressure. A positive effect on blood pressure can have flow-on benefits of assisting in cholesterol levels and improve overall cardiovascular health. This is yet another benefit of Tai Chi for seniors.
5. Prevents bone demineralisation and minimises the risk of fractures
One of the best ways to strengthen your bones and prevent prevent osteoporosis is by doing regular exercise. Bones become stronger through loading, and Tai Chi incorporates movements that require the body to bear weight and hold one’s body weight in certain positions. Even if you already have osteoporosis, exercising can help maintain the bone mass that you have and prevent or slow down further losses. The stronger your bones, the less risk of fractures.
6. Reduces stress and manages anxiety
Abdominal breathing, chest expansions and slow, deep breaths have instant relaxing effects. This can help reduce stress and anxiety, making it a beneficial form of exercise for both our physical and mental health.
7. Low-risk, accessible and inexpensive
Since Tai Chi classes focus on low to moderate intensity exercises, especially tai chi classes for beginners, the exercises and movements are safe for most seniors.
Tai Chi classes run by The Physio Co physios
Our TPC physiotherapists can provide Tai Chi classes in a controlled environment, and led by a Tai Chi-trained therapist, which means there is minimal risk of injury. By incorporating physiotherapy principles, our Tai Chi classes deliver optimal health benefits. So if you would like to obtain the benefits of Tai Chi for seniors, contact us today!
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Article written by Di Liu, TPC physiotherapist– Sydney North