6 Benefits of Tai Chi Moves
1. Increased flexibility
As a type of fluid bodyweight exercise, tai chi moves help boost upper- and lower-body flexibility, along with coordination and strength. Tai chi moves are done in many different positions, sometimes standing or sitting, which helps to warm-up, stretch and relax tense muscle and joint tissue. Most tai chi classes or routines begin with a warm-up period to ease into motions, such as shoulder circles, turning the head from side to side, or rocking back and forth. Over time this practice can reduce stiffness, pains, strains, falls, injuries or tears.
2. Improved & better-maintained balance
University of Liverpool researchers found tai chi can improve balance and strength, along with reducing the risk of falls in the elderly, especially those “at high risk.” Tai chi also aids in proprioception, the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space. Proprioception generally declines as someone ages due to changes in inner ear structure, along with decreasing strength of certain muscles and ligaments. Tai chi helps train proprioception sensory neurons in the inner ear and also restore muscle strength and coordination.
One study documented changes in balance and cardiovascular responses for a community of middle-aged women. Relatively sedentary but healthy women 33 to 55 years old took part in tai chi exercise three times per week. After 12 weeks, compared to the control group, the women doing tai chi moves experienced significant improvements in “dynamic balance” measured by the Functional Reach Test. Tai chi also significantly decreased both mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure, showing it has multiple protective benefits for aging adults. (5)
3. Improved muscle strength & conditioning
Tai chi moves can also improve both lower-body strength and upper-body strength simultaneously, even comparable to other forms of gentle resistance training such as yoga or using bands and light cables. Tai chi improves upper body strength by incorporating many unsupported arm exercises that involve holding the arms up. It can also improve the strength of knees and lower body, core muscles, back and abdomen due to incorporating dynamic movements like leg lunges, squatting moves, twists, kicks, crouching and bends. (6)
4. Better heart health
Tai chi helps lower blood pressure by reducing the body’s stress response, improves “gas exchange” and breathing can help reduce inflammation and can sometimes serve as an aerobic workout. Harvard Medical School notes that quicker-moving forms of tai chi have similar benefits to brisk walking. Studies show that a regular tai chi practice helps improve the strength of the heart and durability of the blood vessels and other bodily tissues. It also helps lower inflammatory responses caused by an overactive autonomic nervous system.
5. Lowers stress, anxiety & depression
Many view tai chi as much more than just an exercise. Historically, tai chi boasts a strong spiritual dimension and promotes greater self-awareness. Studies show that tai chi is a natural stress reliever and promotes positive effects on depression and anxiety in a way similar to yoga or other mind-body exercises. (7)
Often people find that the controlled breathing and focus involved in practicing tai chi promotes a calm mind, increased connection to others, patience, compassion, and acceptance. Practicing tai chi outdoors in a natural environment, such as a park or beach, can also lower stress by bringing someone’s attention to how they are connected with their surroundings, a greater purpose and those living around them.
6. Sharper focus
Studies suggest that tai chi’s slow pace, attention to detail and circular motions helps lower “mind chatter” and improve attention. People often describe tai chi as a “moving meditation” because it involves following the breath in a rhythmic way that causes ruminating or wandering thoughts to decrease. Some people also choose to further improve focus by using practices such as visualization, imagery, mantras or affirmations while performing tai chi moves.