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September 25, 2014

Strengthen Your Body and Prevent Falls with Tai Chi

The challenge of starting a new exercise program can be intimidating. Reading the phrase, ”strengthen your body” probably brings to mind weight lifting or high intensity exercise. However, that’s not the case for the ancient practice of tai chi, which uses slow, focused movements to improve your balance and tone your muscles.

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese practice originally developed as self-defense. Combined with deep breathing, the movements of tai chi are meant to be slow and focused, transitioning seamlessly from one position to the next. The gentle movements and calm stretches that define this graceful form of exercise have earned it the nickname, “meditation in motion.”

What Are the Health Benefits of Practicing Tai Chi?

Thanks to its low impact movements, tai chi can be a safe form of exercise for almost all ages and fitness capabilities. This makes it an especially good option for older adults. Here are some health benefits you can expect with regular tai chi practice:

  • Tai chi is believed to decrease stress and anxiety, which can not only improve your overall quality of life, but also help you sleep better and improve your immune system.
  • Though the movements are slow, tai chi can also improve your aerobic conditioning while increasing your energy levels and stamina.
  • The poses in tai chi are meant to improve flexibility and balance, which helps to reduce your risk of falling. (Keep reading to learn how.)
  • Some studies have also indicated regular practice of tai chi can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and improve symptoms associated with congestive heart failure.

How Tai Chi Helps to Keep You On Your Feet

Some studies have found tai chi can reduce the risk of falling by up to 45 percent. Practicing tai chi works to improve several physical abilities tied to falling that tend to decline with age, such as leg strength, flexibility, range of motion, and reflexes.

Tai chi is also believed to reduce the fear of falling in older adults by making them more comfortable on their feet. A preoccupation with the threat of falling is often one of the biggest predictor of a future fall. By having a stronger sense of your physical positioning, older adults who practice tai chi report feeling more stable and grounded in their movements.

Attend Healthy Aging Day!

If you’ve attended Healthy Aging Day before, you may have been lucky enough to catch a presentation by Jill Connone, Wellness Coordinator at Kendal at Oberlin, on tai chi and the benefits it can have for older adults. Don’t miss this year’s Healthy Aging Day—packed with great healthy aging tips, including more information on how to prevent falls—on September 26 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Mustard Seed Market and Café, 6025 Kruse Road in Solon. Click here to register!

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