Tai Chi and Strength

Given the slow graceful movement in Tai Chi, it’s hard to imagine that it can make us stronger… particularly if you grew up, like I did,  thinking that the only way to get strong is to lift heavy weights!

But guess what….?!?  Our assumption is incorrect….

Jane Brody, in an article written for the NY Times, teaches us otherwise…..

Check out an excerpt from her article below to find out more:

Tai chi moves can be easily learned and executed by people of all ages and states of health, even elderly people in wheelchairs.

Watching a group of people doing tai chi, an exercise often called “meditation in motion,” it may be hard to imagine that it’s slow, gentle, choreographed movements could actually make people stronger. Not only stronger mentally but stronger physically and healthier as well.

I certainly was surprised by its effects on strength, but good research — and there’s been a fair amount of it by now — doesn’t lie. If you’re not ready or not able to tackle strength-training with weights, resistance bands or machines, tai chi may just be the activity that can help to increase your stamina and diminish your risk of injury that accompanies weak muscles and bones.

Don’t get scared by its frequent description as an “ancient martial art.” Tai chi (and a related exercise called Qigong) does not resemble the strenuous, gravity-defying karate moves you may have seen in Jackie Chan films. Tai chi moves can be easily learned and executed by people of all ages and states of health, even those in their 90s, in wheelchairs or bedridden.

It’s been eight years since I last summarised the known benefits of this time-honoured form of exercise, and it has since grown in popularity in venues like Y’s, health clubs and community and senior centres. By now it is likely that millions more people have become good candidates for the help tai chi can provide to their well-being.

tai chi strength in balance physio fitness northam

First, a reprise of what I previously wrote as to why most of us should consider including tai chi into our routines for stronger bodies and healthier lives.

  • It is a low-impact activity suitable for people of all ages and most states of health, including those who have long been sedentary or “hate” exercise.

  • It is a gentle, relaxing activity that involves deep breathing but does not work up a sweat or leave you out of breath.

  • It does not place undue stress on joints and muscles and therefore is unlikely to cause pain or injury.

  • It requires no special equipment or outfits, only lightweight, comfortable clothing.

  • Once proper technique is learned from a qualified instructor, it is a low-cost activity that can be practiced anywhere, anytime.

One more fact: Beneficial results from tai chi are often quickly realised. Significant improvements involving a host of different conditions can be achieved within 12 weeks of tai chi exercises done for an hour at a time twice a week.

Much of the research, which was reviewed in 2015 by researchers at Beijing University and Harvard Medical School, has focused on how tai chi has helped people with a variety of medical problems. It is summarised in a new book from Harvard Health Publications, “An Introduction to Tai Chi,” which includes the latest studies of healthy people whose mission was health preservation as well as people with conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis.

Of the 507 studies included in the 2015 review, 94.1 percent found positive effects of tai chi. These included 192 studies involving only healthy participants, 142 with the goal of health promotion or preservation and 50 seeking better balance or prevention of falls.

This last benefit may be the most important of all, given that every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room…….

Click to continue reading the rest of the article here