Inner Peace: The Health Benefits of Tai Chi
by Sarah Kaye Santos
Published December 18, 2016
When it comes to working out, most of our minds go to burpees or running on the treadmill. Gentler exercises often go forgotten, but they shouldn’t. For one thing, you’re a lot more likely to squeeze in a workout if doesn’t leave you drenched or completely aching. Tai chi is one of our favorites. What is tai chi, you ask? It’s a graceful type of martial art that’s calming and also manages to strengthen your body through controlled movements. If you’d like to hear more, check out these benefits of tai chi.
1. It improves mental health
That an exercise involving slow, methodical movements is good for your mind seems to make sense, and there’s research to prove it. According to a 2010 review. practicing tai chi can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. This was true even when subjects incorporated just a small amount into their routines, so a packed schedule shouldn’t deter you. Have a 10-minute window in your day? Give it a shot. A shorter session is probably better for tai chi beginners anyway.
2. It increases strength
Although it isn’t as taxing as other exercises like running or lifting weights, tai chi can help build strength. Specifically, WebMD says you’ll target your core, arms, legs, glutes, and back. If ever there were a full body workout, this is it. Plus, Harvard Health Publications says tai chi can even provide some aerobic conditioning if you manage to move quick enough. Even if if it doesn’t turn into a full-blow cardio workout, the flexibility and strength gains are totally worth it.
3. It helps improve balance
You can add improved balance to the list of tai chi’s benefits. In one study researchers found people with Parkinson’s disease saw greater improvement in balance after practicing tai chi for 24 weeks compared to those who performed resistance training or stretching. Tai chi practitioners also experienced fewer falls.
So what exactly is happening? Harvard Health Publications explains tai chi helps with balance because it improves leg strength, reflexes, and range of motion which are all crucial for keeping you upright. And the better your balance, the less likely you are to fall.
4. It helps improve flexibility
If you do tai chi regularly, Everyday Health says you’ll probably notice your flexibility improve. This makes complete sense, because the exercise involves slow, relaxed movements that incorporate all of the major muscle groups in the body. It’s basically moving stretches.
5. It may help lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol
Concerned about your blood pressure or cholesterol? Genetics and diet make the biggest difference, but Tai chi may help as well. According to one study, the exercise can both reduce blood pressure and improve your lipid profile. You don’t even need to do it for decades to see benefits. The researchers in this study saw the changes after just 12 weeks.
6. It can help improve sleep
If you have trouble sleeping at night, tai chi could be the solution you’ve been looking for. One study found older adults can improve their sleep if they follow a low to moderate intensity tai chi program. Participants who practiced the exercise three times a week for six months reported significantly greater improvements in sleep quality compared to those who practiced another low-impact exercise. In fact, those who practiced tai chi slept, on average, 48 minutes longer each night. That totally beats counting sheep.
7. It can provide arthritis relief
People with arthritis are encouraged to get regular exercise, because it can help relieve painful symptoms. It’s not always that easy, though. Since so many exercises involve high-impact movements, it’s possible to exacerbate aching joints. Luckily, Healthline says tai chi is one of the best ways to get moving. Just be sure to speak with your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program.