Tai Chi for Seniors
You know exercise is important, but you also know working out can lead to injuries in older adults that can cause serious issues. You have to maintain a tricky balance as you age between staying active and not pushing yourself to the point of injury.
You know too well how easy it can be find excuses not to exercise. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we’re not letting you have this one. You do have options for exercising as a senior that are completely safe, will make you healthier, and will reduce your risk of injury.
One of the best forms of exercise that checks all of those boxes is tai chi.
What is Tai Chi?
Tai chi is a form of martial art that originated in China and emphasizes cultivating a connection between the body and mind. It’s an extremely versatile form of exercise – you could spend years studying it and always find more to learn, or stick to learning a more basic beginner version and still gain significant health benefits from it.
A number of types of tai chi exist, some more focused on defense (it is a martial art, after all), some more focused on achieving the physical and mental health benefits it provides. The latter forms of tai chi, in particular, have grown in popularity so that classes are available in many cities, and are even often conducted within hospitals and assisted living facilities.
Tai chi is less about exertion and more about control. You perform slow, flowing movements in time with your breathing that help to both loosen and calm your body. Where some types of exercise focus on pushing yourself, Tai Chi instead emphasizes knowing your limits and staying within them. The challenge you face in tai chi is more about coming to understand your body better than it is about pushing it beyond its comfort zone.
While tai chi doesn’t feel like a work out in the way an hour of cardio does, it provides similar benefits. It contributes to flexibility and strength, relieves pain, and boosts immunity.
12 Reasons Tai Chi is Good for Seniors
Tai chi is good for everybody, but it’s especially become popular with and recommended for seniors. In many cities, you can find tai chi classes for seniors or instructors that come into assisted living facilities and nursing homes to do tai chi with residents.
Tai chi f has taken with seniors off for a few key reasons:
- Tai chi helps with balance. Keeping your balance gets harder with age, but tai chi encourages focus on being aware of where you’re putting your weight as you move through different movements, which teaches you to more successfully keep your balance in other areas of life.
- It reduces risk of falls. A senior fall can have serious consequences. By helping seniors improve their balance, tai chi is helpful for fall prevention.
- It doesn’t require too much exertion. The movements in tai chi are generally slow and focused. Unlike running or lifting weights, they won’t wear you out or cause any strain.
- It’s relaxing. Tai chi helps you clear your mind by focusing on breathing and movement, It can help you drive thoughts causing stress and anxiety from your mind.
- It emphasizes staying within your limits. Where some types of exercise focus on pushing your limits, tai chi encourages practitioners to always be aware of your physical limits and stay within them. Specifically, teachers encourage students to only work at 70% of their current capacity.
- It promotes deep breathing. Shifting your focus toward taking deep breaths has long been a recommended tactic for stress and anger management. Tai chi helps you gain practice with this valuable relaxation technique.
- It’s good for circulation and heart health. The movements of tai chi help improve blood circulation in the body, which in turn boosts heart health. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and can contribute to a number of health issues, including stroke. Improving circulation enables seniors to reduce those risks.
- It can reduce pain. One of the especially appealing side of effects of tai chi that research has discovered is its ability to help reduce pain. Patients with fibromyalgia, arthritis, tension headaches, and Parkinson’s disease have all seen results with tai chi.
- It strengthens the immune system. A couple of studies that tested seniors’ immunity to vaccines found that tai chi provides a measurable boost to the immune system. The immune system naturally weakens with age and illnesses come with greater risk for seniors. If anyone can appreciate a little extra immunity boost, it’s seniors.
- It increases bone density. A broken bone could mean weeks spent in a hospital or bedridden. Even once you’ve recovered from the break, the rest of your body will be weaker for the time spent inactive. While there’s not as much research on this as some of the other health benefits, some research suggests tai chi improves bone density.
- It can improve cognitive performance. Perhaps one of the most exciting items on this list, especially for any seniors worried about dementia, tai chi has been shown to improve cognitive performance and memory.
- Tai chi often becomes a gateway exercise. Getting into the habit of working out is hard. Because tai chi’s easier than high-exertion workouts, it can be a good starting point for seniors hesitant to embrace exercise. Once tai chi helps you understand your body better, it could inspire you to seek out more types of exercise.
How to Do Tai Chi
Because of its recent popularity, you have a few different ways to practice tai chi:
- Research local instructors to see about setting up a tai chi class at your assisted living facility.
- Search the internet to find tai chi classes available in your area.
- Buy tai chi videos to do from home.
- Try out free YouTube videos.
Starting with an instructor is likely ideal if you can find one, since they can help you ensure you’re doing the moves right. But even if you live in a place that doesn’t have many classes or instructors around, you can start practicing tai chi with the help of videos.
Tai chi for seniors is a game changer. It’s affordable, accessible, and doesn’t come with a risk of injury. And the benefits it provides are significant. You no longer have any excuses not to exercise. Give it a try.