The Health Benefits of T’ai Chi
T’ai Chi is short for T'ai chi chuan, which is a gentle form of martial arts based on the movements of animals. It combines deep diaphragmatic breathing with flowing, dance-like poses where practitioners focus on body alignment and movement through a set of specific moves. The practice can be a remarkably thorough way for people of many ages to learn mind-body focus, deep relaxation, breathwork, balance and strength. All this while still being gentle on the body and calming to the mind. The goals of T’ai Chi are to gain a relaxed body, a focused mind and to increase the flow of one’s Chi, or lifeforce energy.
Various studies have shown that T’ai Chi improves balance, endurance, pulse rate, flexibility, immune system response, happiness, sense of self-worth and even the mind’s ability to focus!
One of the things that many people don’t realize about T’ai Chi is that it does a wonderful job of strengthening the upper and lower extremities while building strong core muscles for stability. T’ai Chi is highly recommended for aging adults because of their need to maintain muscle tone, balance and mental acuity. This has been backed up by a Stanford University study of men and women who were all 66+, who showed significant increases in upper and lower body strength after only 12 weeks of T’ai Chi classes.
In one especially impressive study from last year, the brains of older people that had been practicing T’ai Chi for years were compared to the brains of similar-aged non-practicing adults. The T’ai Chi practitioners showed greater health in brain connectivity, as well as brain areas that are involved in decision making and attention span. So, T’ai Chi has become a recently adopted practice for aging adults wanting to maintain good brain health, through mindful movement.
Overall, T’ai Chi can surely improve both physical and psychological health. Scientists have yet to determine whether T’ai Chi is substantially better for you than other types of light-to-moderate exercise such as walking, yoga or weight training. For over fifteen years now, we have shown that it makes a great partner with other practices... such as running!
Studies have shown that it is definitely better than very light activity, or none at all. Similarly, with all of the mental and physical benefits, it’s hard to deny that it’s a great tool to add to your daily routine. Those of you who are not as actively oriented might try seeking out a Qigong class, which generally gives the same health benefits without being a martial art.
ChiRunning and ChiWalking were built on these valuable internal principles of T’ai Chi. which is why so many runners and walkers are thrilled with the additional health benefits of strength, mental focus, good breathing technique, and especially relaxation.
You can learn more about how we combine T’ai Chi and running through our website!