There are a great many scientifically proven health benefits of Tai Chi. An alternative and gentle form of exercise, Tai Chi is a great way of maintaining good health without putting unwanted stress on the body.
Tai Chi is an excellent form of exercise and has been termed “meditation in motion.” You could also say that Tai Chi is “Medication in motion”, because it helps with so many health complications.
There is a great deal of scientific evidence that Tai Chi has tremendous health value. And what makes Tai Chi even more wonderful is the fact that absolutely anyone can do it. And if you doubt that just take a look at this beginners guide to Tai Chi.
The gentle, flowing movements of Tai Chi are excellent for you. Let’s take a look at some of the most important health benefits of Tai Chi.
Health beneftis of Tai Chi#1 : Relaxation
Tai Chi incorporates the deep breathing techniques of meditation and it is here that we find the first benefit of Tai Chi: relaxation.
Tai Chi is perhaps the most relaxing of all exercises. While you move through the motions you breathe deeply while focusing (meditating) on the parts of the body. This helps to relax both the mind and body. And it helps you to slow down and to let any stress slip away.
Relaxation really is the name of the game in Tai Chi. All the moves are slow, graceful and smooth, and there is never force exerted on the body. The muscles and joints relax and this helps to cure many physical problems.
Health Benefits of Tai Chi#2: Anti Aging
There is a growing amount of scientific research that shows that Tai Chi is immensely beneficial for reversing the physical symptoms of aging. Though it may not be quite as powerful as meditation in this regard, at least, not according to this 200 year old Buddhist monk.
Because Tai Chi uses slow and smooth motions which are free of any stress and strain, it helps the body to repair without the risk of extra injury. This is one way Tai Chi is different from other exercises. Most other exercises, like running, weight training, and even yoga, put some degree of strain on the body (yoga stretches the body which can exacerbate tissue damage).
In many exercises the idea of “no pain no gain” is present.
When we train with weights or run, we aim to push our bodies. This isn’t so with Tai Chi. Tai Chi is all about working with the body, about helping the body to relax and to return to its natural state free of strain or damage.
Because of this, Tai Chi is of immense value to people with muscular or joint problems (Tai Chi helps with arthritis, for instance).
For those people who aren’t injured or ill, bu perhaps aren’t particularly fit either, Tai Chi is a great way to begin exercising.
Practicing Tai Chi before or after other exercises helps the body to avoid injury when we do push it. For instance, practicing Tai Chi before running helps the body to get in motion without strain, so that when we start running we are able to do so smoothly and without strain. It could be called the perfect warm up.
Health Benefits Of Tai Chi #3: Spirituality
While spirituality is not a necessary part of practicing Tai Chi, it is worth mentioning it here.
There are many proven health benefits of spirituality. For instance, spirituality has been shown to help with stress, anxiety and depression and to help people to achieve higher levels of happiness.
Tai Chi can help to put you in touch with your more spiritual side.
Traditional Tai Chi involved the movement of Qi around the body. Qi is the central energy force of the body. If we find ourselves stuck in life, tired or just fed up, many Tai Chi teachers would say it is because our Qi is not flowing. When we practice Tai Chi we get Qi moving through the body and this helps to promote mental and spiritual wellbeing.
Another spiritual aspect of Tai Chi is the idea of yin and yang. Yin and yang are opposing elements which should be kept in balance. Tai Chi helps us to promote the balance of yin and yang.
Health Benefits of Tai Cchi #4: Fitness
Many people believe that because Tai Chi doesn’t put strain on the body it isn’t very affective at developing strength or in making us fit.
This simply is not true.
Tai Chi addresses all key components of fitness. It builds muscle strength, balance, flexibility and aerobic conditioning. The aerobic conditioning is not so great as it is in running, swimming or other cardio based exercises, but it is nevertheless a benefit of Tai Chi.
In a time when many are obsessed with weight training, the idea that Tai Chi makes us stronger is disregarded by many.
The fact of the matter, however, is that Tai Chi has been scientifically proven to help strengthen muscles and to tone the body. Of course, it will not give you big and bulky muscles. Instead, it works the core, strengthening the body in a more natural and less forced way.
5. Muscle Strength
In 2006 the publication Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine published research conducted by Stanford University.
The study looked into the benefits of Tai Chi for strength training. 39 men and women who had below average fitness levels and were at risk of developing a cardiovascular condition were asked to practice tai chi for 12 weeks.
After the 12 week period they showed markedly improved lower body strength and upper body strength (these were tested by seeing how many times they could sit up from a chair in 30 seconds and how many arm curls they were able to do).
But how does Tai Chi fair against resistance training?
A Chinese study asked 113 adults to practice Tai Chi for twelve weeks, while other groups practiced walking and resistance training. The group who had practiced Tai Chi improved their lower body strength by 30%, which is better than those who walked and almost exactly the same as those who did resistance training.
The reason why Tai Chi works for strength building is that, although there is no resistance, the unsupported arm exercises strengthens the upper body, while other postures likewise condition the midsection and lower body. And this is with much less risk of injury.
Tai Chi has been shown to significantly improve balance and to help elderly people and people with physical ailments to prevent falls.
As we grow older our proprioception declines (proprioception is our sense of positioning in space and thereby hugely important to balance). Tai Chi helps to develop this sense. Tai Chi helps neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors to work. It also improves both flexibility and muscle strength. Together, this provides significantly improved balance and is helpful in preventing falls.
7. Tai Chi for Arthritis
One of the most commonly touted benefits of Tai Chi is ability to help people suffering from arthritis.
In October 2008 Tufts University presented their results of a study in which they asked 40 people to practice Tai Chi for 12 weeks. The study showed that by practicing tai chi for one hour twice a week (which, of course, is really not a great deal of commitment), the subject improved mood, reduced pain and improved physical conditioning. The study also showed that Tai Chi was more effective than standard stretching in people with knee osteoarthritis.
A Korean study also showed that eight weeks of Tai Chi classes followed by home practice improved flexibility and slowed disease in people suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, which is a debilitating and very painful inflammatory type of arthritis that has a severely detrimental effect on the spine.
8. Breast Cancer
Tai Chi has been scientifically proven to improve the quality of life of people suffering from breast cancer.
It also improves functional capacity (the ability to live a normal life and complete normal everyday tasks while suffering.
One study published in 2008 by the University of Rochester revealed that muscular strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity and functional capacity improves in just 12 weeks of Tai Chi practice.
Another group was given supportive therapy and did not receive Tai Chi training. This second group of women showed worse functional capacity after twelve weeks. In other words, Tai Chi is helps women suffering from breast cancer to live normal lives and to maintain their strength.
9. Tai Chi and the Heart
One of the most important health benefits of tai chi is the affect it has on your heart.
The National Taiwan University studied 53 people for one year, asking them to practice tai chi while they were being researched. The study showed that tai chi lowered blood pressure, boosted exercise capacity, improved cholesterol levels, insulin levels, triglycerides levels and C-reactive protein in people at high risk for heart disease. Another control group were asked not to practice tai chi. This second group showed none of the improvements of the tai chi group.
Harvard Medical School conducted a study in which 30 people were asked to practice tai chi for twelve weeks. The study showed that tai chi reduced blood levels of B-type natriuretic protein. This protein is a sign of heart failure, so by decreasing it, tai chi was shown to help people to avoid heart failure.
More Health Benefits Of Tai Chi:
Parkinson’s Disease: The Washington University School of Medicine has 33 people practice tai chi. The subjects were suffering from Parkinson’s disease. They showed improved walking ability, balance and wall being after 20 tai chi lessons.
The University of California asked 112 healthy adult with sleep problems to practice tai chi for 16 weeks. Their duration of sleep and quality of sleep improved.
Stroke: 136 people who had suffered a stroke within six months prior to testing were asked to practice tai chi for 12 weeks. They showed improved balance, and improved muscle mobilisation.
Wow. Who knew there were so many health benefits of tai chi?
Have you tried ti chi before? What are your thoughts on it? Leave a comment.