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How Tai Chi Helps You Fight Ageing

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 23 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Tai Chi Anti-ageing Fight Ageing Health

Fighting ageing is not just about looking young but also about remaining agile and independent. No matter how great you look, it can seriously damage your confidence, sense of well-being and social life if you are unable to move about and do things easily. However, losing strength and flexibility does not have to be an inevitable result of getting older – practising regular activity and exercise is a great way to maintain your mobility. And Tai Chi is one of the best forms of anti-ageing exercise out there.

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is a form of ancient Chinese martial arts using slow, precise and graceful body movements to enhance body awareness, breathing, mobility, flexibility and balance. The movements are choreographed so that the poses ‘flow’ into each other, in an order which helps to boost energy, mental concentration, fitness and relaxation.

When people hear “Chinese martial art”, many simply think fighting and self-defence – however, what they don’t realise is that rather than focusing on vigorous body movements (such as kung fu), Tai Chi places more emphasis on the mental component of training and on the breathing techniques. It is performed using a unique combination of focused yet relaxed attitude. This makes it ideal for people of all ages and in particular, older people.

Learning Tai Chi

The great bonus of Tai Chi compared to many other exercises is that it can be done anywhere: indoors, outdoors, in a group or by yourself – and requires no special equipment, clothing or even skill.

Like other martial arts, Tai Chi has several forms of styles, with different interpretations and variations. The traditional forms can take up to 20 minutes to perform and up to a year to learn, as well as many years of practice before you are able to fully grasp the subtleties involved. However, there are many simplified forms now which can be learnt much more quickly.

Anti-Ageing Benefits of Tai Chi

There are innumerable benefits associated with Tai Chi. Because it relaxes both the mind and muscles. As well as aligning your spinal posture, it can tap into the source of most health problems. Not only does it improve your agility, coordination and overall fitness but it also helps you maintain good posture, range of motion and flexibility. People who practise Tai Chi sleep more soundly at night and have greater mental clarity.

One of the secrets to the anti-ageing power of Tai Chi is its combination of breathing, movement and mediation. The flow of movement through the poses and positions targets all the major muscle groups and improves your muscle tone, strength, flexibility, stamina and coordination. The movements also improve circulation and strengthen joints, as they rotate all the joints in the body through the postures. The movements even function as a form of internal massage, especially those from the waist, thus helping digestion and relieving gastrointestinal problems.

The deep, slow, rhythmic breathing used on Tai Chi helps to regulate your respiratory system and can have significant effects on problems like bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. The breathing patterns also help to exhale toxins, while increasing your lung capacity and releasing tension.

Tai Chi to reduce falls

One of the areas which concern many people as they age is the increased risk of falling and injury. In fact, fall-related injuries are one of the leading causes of death in older adults. Hip fractures, for example, are the 7th most common cause of death in older adults.

Research has shown that Older People who take part in Tai Chi can reduce their risk of falling by up to 30% and improve their balance, posture and co-ordination. In fact, one study showed that practising Tai Chi for just one hour, three times a week, could significantly improve your endurance, balance, flexibility and muscular strength in as little as 6 weeks.

Tai Chi to reduce depression

Depression in older adults can be common as people struggle with the loss of their youthful looks, figure, strength, stamina and mobility. Several studies show, however, that regular practice of Tai Chi can help greatly in maintaining a positive outlook and sense of well-being.

This may also be due to the meditation aspects of Tai Chi. Because it involves slowing down the mind and body, this has a calming effect which also enhances mental focus and reduces anxiety. Research even shows that this kind of activity can lower blood pressure and heart rate. It also has benefits for the immune system and your central nervous system.

This means that Tai Chi is especially beneficial for those suffering from chronic illness – something that sadly becomes more common as we age – or from depression and other stress-related conditions.

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