In recent years, Tai Chi has become an increasingly popular form of exercise worldwide, and for good reason. This ancient Chinese practice has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including stress reduction and relaxation. In this blog post, we will explore the science behind these benefits and provide references to peer-reviewed studies from reputable sources in China, around the world, and in the UK. It was originally developed as a form of self-defense, but over time, it has evolved into a form of exercise that is practiced for health and wellness purposes. Tai Chi is often described as a moving meditation, as it requires focus and concentration to perform the movements correctly.
Tai Chi for Stress Reduction and Relaxation
Stress is a common problem in today’s fast-paced world. It can lead to a variety of physical and mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, and cardiovascular disease. Tai Chi has been shown to be an effective way to reduce stress and promote relaxation, making it a valuable tool for maintaining overall health and well-being.
One study conducted in China found that practicing Tai Chi for just 12 weeks resulted in significant reductions in perceived stress and improvements in overall mood among participants 1. Another study conducted in the UK found that Tai Chi was effective in reducing both state and trait anxiety in a group of healthy adults 2.
The calming effects of Tai Chi may be due in part to its focus on deep breathing and relaxation techniques. When we are stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid, which can increase feelings of anxiety and tension. By practicing deep breathing and relaxation techniques, Tai Chi can help to counteract these effects and promote a sense of calm and relaxation.
It’s because T’ai Chi was designed in part as a form of self defence and when someone is attacked it is of paramount importance to stay calm and avoid panic, to keep your wits about you so you can defend yourself more effectively. This kind of skill is worth more than ten thousands ‘kick-ass’ moves.; Tai Chi exercises affect the condition of the Shen which is stored in the heart, this has a very positive effect on the mind and spirit, calming the mind and lifting the mood.
Tai Chi for Physical Health
In addition to its mental health benefits, Tai Chi has also been shown to have numerous physical health benefits. Some of these benefits include improved balance and coordination, increased flexibility and range of motion, and reduced pain and inflammation. Tai Chi is designed to increase the natural reservoir of Qi or life force and this is partly accomplished by making the physical body more efficient and reducing the load on the system in general which creates less tax on the Qi. Improving balance for example lessens the physical stresses on the body’s framework and so makes the musculature more efficient. Flexibility improves the flow of life force around the system and so makes the regeneration of organs and tissues easier. Think of how a young sapling bends with the breeze compared to an old tree and how this also makes it more resilient and less prone to damage.
Balance and Coordination
Falls are a common problem among older adults, and they can lead to serious injuries such as hip fractures. Tai Chi has been shown to be an effective way to improve balance and reduce the risk of falls in older adults. Tai Chi was designed to build basic martial arts skills and in a fight getting knocked onto the ground makes you very vulnerable and severely restricts your ability to defend yourself. Correctly performing forms creates a kind of built-in tilt sensitivity which is good for posture and keeps the body upright without thinking about it. This is partly due to Tai Chi exercises working on the Spleen energy which is known in ancient Chinese Medicine as ‘upright energy’. This energy works to keep the organs in place so contributing to an upright posture and improved balance.
Also, partner exercises like sticky hands test the balance from all angles and teach you to unconsciously adapt to incoming forces so correcting balance before it gets to the point of falling over. Generally speaking, Tai Chi exercises also increase elasticity which makes the body more resilient in response to a fall so less damage is done. One study conducted in China found that a 12-week Tai Chi program resulted in significant improvements in balance and reduced the risk of falls among participants 3.
Flexibility and Range of Motion
Tai Chi involves slow, fluid movements that require a wide range of motion. This can help to improve flexibility and range of motion, which is especially important for older adults who may be at risk from mobility problems. Tai Chi exercises offer a comprehensive workout for the torso and limbs while being gentle on the body. They can help alleviate the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. One study conducted in the UK found that a 12-week Tai Chi program resulted in significant improvements in flexibility and range of motion among older adults 4
Pain and Inflammation
Tai Chi has been shown to be effective in reducing pain and inflammation in a variety of conditions, including osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic low back pain. One study conducted in the US found that a 12-week Tai Chi program resulted in significant reductions in pain and stiffness among participants with knee osteoarthritis 5. Another study conducted in Australia found that a 10-week Tai Chi program resulted in significant reductions in pain and improved physical function among participants with fibromyalgia 6.
In conclusion, Tai Chi is a valuable tool for promoting both physical and mental health. Its slow, fluid movements and deep breathing techniques make it an effective way to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Additionally, Tai Chi has been shown to improve balance and coordination, increase flexibility and range of motion, and reduce pain and inflammation in a variety of conditions. If you are looking for a low-impact exercise that is beneficial for both your physical and mental health, Tai Chi may be a great option for you.
It’s important to note that while Tai Chi is generally considered safe for most people, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions or concerns.