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Tai Chi: A Gentle Path to Fitness

Learn more about this “moving meditation”

By Beth Hawkins, Contributing Writer

Tai chi is a mind-body exercise that was first used by Chinese monks to improve concentration and physical well-being. Today, some people may turn to it to help manage stress.

Sometimes called moving meditation, tai chi’s graceful and precise body movements can enhance balance, strength and coordination while helping you achieve better body awareness. Tai chi’s movements are said to align the body, improve flexibility and increase energy flow called qi. It may also increase inner peace.

Combining breathing exercises with slow, gentle movements, tai chi is an activity for all age groups and all levels of fitness. It is ideal for just about anyone — children, adults of all ages or people with disabilities. Many of the movements can be adapted and performed in a sitting position.

Benefits of tai chi
Researchers have studied the benefits of tai chi. They may include:

  • Increased bone health
  • Cardiopulmonary fitness
  • Increased quality of life
  • Improved self-confidence
  • Improved balance and fall prevention
  • Improved strength, movement and flexibility

Another advantage of tai chi is that injuries from this activity are few. The movements are performed very slowly and are not strenuous if done correctly. Like any activity, your muscles may be sore when you first start tai chi. You may need to change or stay away from some of the movements if you are pregnant or have certain health conditions. Contact your doctor to discuss whether you should take a tai chi class.

If you are physically inactive or have a chronic health condition such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, pregnancy or other symptoms, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. He or she can tell you what types of activities are safe and suitable for you.

Sources:

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Tai chi: An introduction. Accessed: March 12, 2015.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Tai chi and qi gong show some beneficial health effects. Accessed: March 12, 2015.
American Council on Exercise. What exactly is tai chi and what are some of its benefits? Accessed: March 12, 2015.

Last Updated: April 28, 2014