When you think of martial arts the first thing that pops into your mind is fighting, am I right? However, this is not always the case. The spiritual aspects of several ancient martial arts can be used for mental as well as physical refinement. The almighty art of Tai Chi is a good example. The word Tai Chi is derived from the ancient Chinese term ‘Tai Chi Chuan’ which means ‘The Supreme Ultimate Force’. Based on the Chinese concept of yin-yang, Tai Chi can be interpreted as two opposites in equilibrium. Examples of opposites are: male and female, hard and soft, dark and light, and so on. The ‘force’ can be defined as the means to achieve the perfect equilibrium that is yin and yang. So in simpler terms, you could achieve a perfect balance in your mind and body through regular practice.

Tai Chi brings about slow, relaxed, rhythmic, meditative movements with a unique flow, somewhat like doing yoga while practicing meditation. The movements are usually circular and never forced. There are a number of preformed ‘sets’ of movements specially tailored to make you find inner calm and peace.There are countless proposed benefits of Tai Chi. Need some convincing? Check out these extraordinary benefits listed below.

 

  1. Boosts fitness and endurance

In a recent study a group of seniors aged 60-70 were asked to practice Tai Chi for 12 weeks. The idea was to measure their physical improvement, muscular strength and endurance. Nevertheless, the results were measureable in as early as six weeks showing significantly higher muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility scores.

  1. Minimizes arthritis

Arthritis is a fairly common joint disorder frequently affecting elderly individuals. The joint and its surrounding tissue become inflamed causing pain, stiffness, and swelling, the classical arthritic triad. About 8.75 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. Despite being a fairly common disorder there is currently no cure for arthritis. However through regular practice Tai Chi can allieviate arthritic symptoms by minimizing inflammation and increasing joint flexibility.

  1. Good for the heart

Regular practice will improve overall cardiac function. This includes the normalization of blood pressure, heart rate, ejection volume, blood lipids and BMI. These are also called cardiopulmonary fitness indicators. This is according to 12 studies done using elderly adults (mean age 61) who lived a sedentary lifestyle prior to engaging in the study. All of their cardiac parameters showed a positive change.

  1. Effective in treating fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a disorder with widespread musculoskeletal pain and reduced threshold for pain. It can affect your ability to perform daily activities and can cripple you both physically and mentally. There is no known cure despite ongoing research. A single-blind randomized trial of classic Yang-style Tai Chi was done with 66 affected participants, at the end of which 33 had improved significantly over 12 weeks. So this is indeed good news for fibromyalgia sufferers who are waiting on a medical breakthrough.

  1. Greater aerobic capacity

Aerobic capacity is measured by the maximum volume of oxygen an individual can use per min/kg of body weight. In simpler terms it is the highest amount of air we can breathe per a specific, measurable unit. A lower aerobic capacity tends to cause early exhaustion during exercises and daily activities. Usually, it diminishes with age. In a meta-analysis study, researchers found that ‘long term’ practice of Tai Chi can result in higher lung capacity and higher lung volumes than observed in sedentary people. This can be ideal for seniors in restoring any diminishing aerobic capacity.

  1. Improves lung function

Controlled breathing is a crucial element in Tai Chi. These deep breathing techniques can prevent the onset of asthma attacks and treat conditions like bronchitis and emphysema. COPD patients who are battling respiratory obstruction can find significant relief after long-term practice, based on a randomized trial using 12 moderate to severe COPD patients.

  1. Improves mental disorders

Around 450 million people worldwide are experiencing some sort of mental disorder at any given time. Over the past decade, numerous studies have proven the correlation between physical activity and mental health. After assessing 8 English and 3 Chinese databases that included forty studies looking into the matter, the Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center, USA concluded that “Tai Chi appears to be associated with improvements in psychological well-being including reduced stress, anxiety, depression, and mood disturbance, and increased self-esteem”.

Tai Chi is a low-impact art that can be practiced by almost anybody. It puts less strain on muscles and joints that make it ideal for elderly. Due to its simplicity, it can be practiced anywhere and a place closer to nature is recommended. Though usually safe, pregnant women, those with joint problems, and people with recent fractures should consider medical advice before starting.

 

 

References

1.WHAT IS TAI CHI?

http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Philosophy/Taichi/what.html

2.A guide to tai chi, NHS

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/taichi.aspx

3.A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3085832/

4.Tai Chi for Arthritis Relief, WebMD

http://www.webmd.com/arthritis/features/tai-chi-for-arthritis#1

  1. Osteoarthritis, Arthritisresearchuk.org

http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/data-and-statistics/data-by-condition/osteoarthritis.aspx

6.A Randomized Trial of Tai Chi for Fibromyalgia

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3023168/

7.Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2893078/