We all know about the importance of exercise – especially as we are living longer and want to age positively and enjoy those extra years coming our way. With 50 becoming the new 40 or even 30, 60 the new 50, we are all looking to embrace life and have the health and energy to live it to the full, but for many of us hitting the gym just doesn’t appeal. So what about more gentle alternatives?
There are always new exercise crazes hitting the tabloid headlines – but more traditional forms of exercise such as Tai Chi have stood the test of time – and been applauded by institutions such as the Harvard Medical School for delivering health benefits.
The Benefits of Tai Chi
Said to be the equivalent of a brisk walk, this gentle exercise format encompasses the process of slow, gentle movements with breathing techniques which have elements of meditation, strengthening the body while focusing the mind. Tai Chi has been proven to address physical, mental and emotional health issues.
I know my own introduction to Tai Chi was on a holiday in the Caribbean several years ago, where our very flexible and lively instructor informed us that he had walked away from the stress of corporate life, discovered Tai Chi, and trained to be an instructor. Our collective jaws dropped when he went on to tell those of us who had just been wobbling on one leg while he performed the sequence perfectly, that he was approaching his 80th birthday. A birthday he believes he would not have seen had he continued with his stressful life.
The Physical benefits of Tai Chi:
- Leg Strength
- Range of motion
- Improves expansion and contraction of the arteries
We have touched on the importance of balance and flexibility in previous articles, and the importance of acting now in order to ensure that we are flexible later. We should think of our bodies as our ‘flexible friends’! In fact Tai Chi is thought to be so beneficial in this respect – with claims that regular activity such as Tai Chi can help reduce falls in the elderly by 45%, some residential care homes much like Amherst House care home in Horley, are now building Tai Chi into their weekly programmes. Due to the seemingly gentle nature of the exercise Tai Chi is also used in many rehabilitation programmes.
The history of Tai Chi goes back more than 2000 years with its roots in Yin and Yang. According to the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain, Tai Chi promotes the flow of ‘Qi’ energy through meridians or pathways through the body, assisting the free flow of energy, aiding relaxation and reducing stress.
Stress in the body is a key contributor to premature ageing. Tension and stress contribute to many health conditions and Tai Chi is an excellent way to combat the stresses and strains of modern life as it concentrates both the mind and the body in its movements.
As Tai Chi does not place a strain on bones or joints it is an excellent form of exercise at every age.
A fabulous alternative to the gym!