Senior Living Blog

Start the New Year off Right with Tai Chi

January 6, 2020

group of senior performing tai chi outdoors

Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to get more exercise and/or reduce stress? Well, we may have the perfect answer for you. Tai chi! Tai chi is both a physical and meditative practice that has many health benefits.

As we mentioned in an earlier post, exercise remains important, even as we age. Tai chi is a great exercise for seniors, as it is a low-impact activity that is gentle on the joints, can be performed anywhere, and requires no expensive equipment. And almost everyone can participate. There are even tai chi routines for wheelchair users. Here are just some of its benefits:

It makes you more physically fit
An article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that tai chi helped those living with osteoarthritis, COPD and heart failure show improvement in four areas: a six-minute walking test, muscle strength, the time it takes to get up and move, and quality of life. The best part? These results were accomplished without any pain while performing the exercises.

It reduces pain
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people living with fibromyalgia who participated in tai chi classes twice a week for 12 weeks reported less pain than the control group, who participated in stretching sessions and wellness education twice a week.

It reduces stress
In addition to being a physical exercise, tai chi is also a meditative practice, which helps calm the mind, a leading factor in reducing stress.

It boosts the immune system
A study at UCLA discovered that practicing tai chi boosted one’s immunity to a level comparable to having received the shingles vaccine. The study divided individuals into two groups. Half took tai chi classes three times a week for 16 weeks, while the other half attended health education classes during the same time frame. After 16 weeks, both groups received the shingles vaccine. The tai chi group had twice the immunity level than the health education group.

It improves balance and reduces fall risk
In a study published by the Journal of Gerontology, older adults who practiced six months of tai chi decreased their frequency of falls by 55 percent compared to a group who simply performed stretching exercises.

It decreases depression
Researchers from the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences confirmed that tai chi can be effective in fighting depression in older adults. For some seniors, tai chi might even offer benefits to rival prescription antidepressant drugs, which can cause negative side effects or undesirable interactions with the other medicines a senior takes.

 It can increase your quality of life
A research project from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found that tai chi not only improves the mood of patients who are living with chronic heart failure, but also encourages them to be more active. Confirming the results of the UCLA researchers, the Beth Israel Deaconess team discovered that patients who participated in tai chi experienced an improvement in mood and quality of life. They also discovered that the patients were more motivated and confident during their prescribed walking regimen.

Categories: Healthy Aging