Tai chi for seniors is a healthy exercise that simultaneously relaxes and invigorates the body. Many individuals perform tai chi, also spelled t’ai chi, as an alternative to a more dynamic workout, yet still reap the numerous benefits associated with a focused approach to body movement.
Tai Chi Benefits and the Health Care Community
The health community continuously studies the effects of tai chi for seniors.
The University of Illinois conducted a controlled study on tai chi involving a group of seniors with an average age of 80. In 2006, the university released the results, which noted strong improvement in balance, energy levels, ability to balance, flexibility, and sleep quality in as little as six months.
The Mayo Clinic reports that other research into the benefits of tai chi for seniors indicates that with regular practice, individuals may:
- Relieve the symptoms of chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.
- Improve coordination, reducing the number of falls
- Improve everyday physical functioning, which promotes independent living
- Reduce arthritis pain, joint stiffness, and high blood pressure
- Maintain a healthy bone density level to reduce breakage
- Improve overall fitness
Anyone interested in tai chi for seniors will be happy to discover that it can be practiced anywhere. There’s very little risk of overdoing it, and there’s no need for special equipment. However, like with any new exercise endeavor, it’s best to check with your health adviser before trying it for the first time.
Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors
Tai Chi for seniors invigorates and relaxes the body as well as improves balance and strength. In addition, a recent study presented at the American Heart Association annual meeting concluded that just 12 weeks of Tai Chi classes could result in improved blood pressure readings for many seniors.
Traditional Tai Chi consists of 108 movements and Tai Chi Chih is the name of the version for seniors. Tai Chi Chih consists of 19 of the original 108 tai chi movements and one pose. Movements are practiced slowly and gently and do not involve physical contact with other people. These movements focus on balance, coordination and circulation, through low-impact and relaxing forms of exercise.
The 19 movements of tai chi for seniors, learned in order, are:
- Rocking Motion
- Bird Flaps Its Wings
- Around the Platter
- Around the Platter Variation
- Bass Drum
- Around the Platt
- Daughter of the Mountaintop/Daughter in the Valley
- Carrying the Ball to the Side
- Push pull
- Pulling in the Energy
- Pulling Taffy
- Pulling Taffy, Anchor
- Pulling Taffy, Wrist Circles
- Pulling Taffy, Perpetual Motion
- Working the Pulley
- Light at the Top of the Head (also called Light at the Temple)
- Joyous Breath
- Passing Clouds
- Six Healing Sounds
The Cosmic Consciousness Pose is the one pose used at the end of the tai chi for seniors movements. You begin this pose by raising arms to shoulder level and slowly bending at the elbow so the fingers of each hand come together. Fingertips meet in front of the mouth. As you exit the pose, you slowly lower your arms with palms facing the floor, until you have both arms completely extended.
Examples of Tai Chi Movements
Rocking Motion – Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Shift weight down and towards the front of the feet. Then shift weight towards the back of the feet, pushing straight down. It is important to feel as though weight is being pushed through your feet and down into the ground.
Bird Flaps its Wings – Start with legs shoulder width-apart and knees slightly bent. Place your hands on your thighs. Bring hands up to elbow level, bending elbow. Gently lower and raise forearms and hands in flapping motion. Bring hands down the same path used to raise them, raise again, and repeat the movement.
Bass Drum – Stand with legs slightly bent. Place one foot slight in front of the other. Extend both arms in front of you. Moving the arms together reach out in front, move forward arms in a large circular motion as though running your hands along the rim of a bass drum you are holding in front of you. Repeat.
Tai Chi Benefits and Seniors
The tai chi began to gain popularity with senior care facilities and groups about 20 years ago. This may have been due to the University of Illinois study, which showed a number of improvements in a group of, on average, 80-year-old seniors, within just 60 months of tai chi movements.
Research conducted by the Mayo Clinic confirms seniors can benefit greatly by participation in Tai chi, with benefits that include:
Promotes deep breathing
Improves lower body and leg strength
Enhances mental capacity
Helps alleviate arthritis pain
Reduces bone lose in menopausal women
Improves energy levels rather than depleting it
Aids in faster recovering after strokes and heart attacks
Improves conditions caused by Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Reduced food cravings
Many facilities and community centers offer classes free of charge and no specific equipment is required. When beginning classes, students are encouraged to start by focusing on learning the movements. As the physical movements are mastered, stress levels, emotional states and awareness levels are improved.
These classes also provide a social activity for seniors. When seniors can no longer participate in many physical activities, they sometimes become isolated. Tai chi for seniors offers a relaxed setting for meeting with other seniors on a regular basis, to enjoy an activity in which they have a common interest.
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