The Benefits of Tai Chi


Sydney Isaacs mentions in his interview that he took classes in Tai Chi for several years. He is not the only person to think that Tai Chi is a good thing.

 

Sydney Isaacs mentions in his interview that he took classes in Tai Chi for several years. He is not the only person to think that Tai Chi is a good thing.

 

Recently there has been a study published following research in China about the health benefits of Tai Chi, especially for older people. Looking into it, we found that there are many studies equally proclaiming the benefits of Tai Chi. In May 2009, Harvard Medical School published its own paper on the subject. "A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for Tai Chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age," says Peter M. Wayne, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Program at Harvard Medical School's Osher Research Center. A 2006 study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, by Stanford University researchers reported on the benefits of Tai Chi in muscle strength, flexibility and balance. Balance is improved because Tai Chi movements help to train the ability to sense the position of ones body in space. The improvement in this ability may contribute to a reduction in falls by improving the function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and developing greater body awareness. This greater awareness is developed through the aspect of Tai Chi which is the mental focus on your bodily sensations as you perform the movements. I often feel that people who wear headphones while working out have some of their focus diverted away from their bodies that would be more usefully directed to assessing their performance.


The recent study referred to above, jointly between Hong Kong Polytechnic and University of Illinois, found that Tai Chi was effective in preventing the reduction of arterial compliance (stiffening of the arteries) as well as increased muscle strength in the knees. Tai Chi has been found to have some benefit to upper body strength, but this didn't form part of this study. This is not the only study to propose that Tai Chi has benefits on Blood Pressure. Another study analysing published results in medical literature found generally positive but not conclusive evidence towards this.



Because of its slow and controlled movements, the lack of full extension or flexion to the joints, and the fact that muscles are relaxed rather than tensed during the exercises, Tai Chi is particularly recommended for older people, either as a stand-alone work-out or as a way of developing towards more acute exercise. If you do want a more intense workout, then Tai Chi may only form a part of your exercise routine, but if you have the chance to take a class you may well find that including it in your conditioning work has benefits that other forms of exercise might lack.