What Are the Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors?

Victoria Burke by Victoria Burke | Licensed since 2011
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This article was updated on: 09/15/2018

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If you’re an older adult looking for a low impact way to stay active, you might consider tai chi. Learn more about tai chi and how it can be a beneficial for people of all ages.

What is tai chi?

Tai chi is an ancient form of Chinese exercise characterized by slow, measured movements and deep breathing. According to the Mayo Clinic, the practice originally started as a form of self-defense. Today, tai chi exercises are best known for their gentle, controlled stretches, where each movement flows into the next so that you’re constantly moving throughout the activity.

Even though it might be easy to assume such a slow-moving and gentle activity isn’t intense enough to do much, tai chi can be considered an aerobic exercise. In fact, the level and benefit of aerobic intensity, depending on the type of tai chi, can be similar to taking a fast walk, according to the Harvard Health Publishing.

How tai chi can benefit older adults

Because tai chi is a low impact exercise, it should be safe for individuals of all ages and levels of fitness, according to the Mayo Clinic. In fact, it may be especially well suited for older adults whose health status may make it otherwise difficult to exercise. According to Harvard Health Publishing, studies have shown tai chi may reduce falls in older adults by up to 45 percent.

According to the Mayo Clinic, health benefits of tai chi may include:

  • Lower anxiety, stress, and depression
  • Higher energy
  • Better balance and flexibility
  • Muscle strengthening
  • Lower blood pressure

The Mayo Clinic does note that those with severe osteoporosis, fractures, joint issues, or back pain should talk with a doctor before starting a tai chi regimen. In some situations, tai chi exercises can be modified so you can still safely do them. Tai chi exercises can even be done in a chair or wheelchair, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Tai chi exercises for beginners

If you’re new to tai chi, there are many resources available, including online videos and books that demonstrate tai chi exercises. However, you may also find it helpful to sign up for a tai chi class, where a qualified instructor can correct your technique and posture to make sure you’re doing it safely. Like any form of exercise, there may be risk of injury if you do tai chi exercises incorrectly.

Once you’ve mastered basic techniques and feel comfortable doing tai chi on your own, one of the main benefits of tai chi is that it can be done pretty much anywhere (including the comfort of your own bedroom), without needing special equipment. It’s perfect for the older adult who wants to stay active but may have difficulty getting around.

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Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information.

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