The Unexpected Benefits of Tai Chi
Dec 29, 2019 07:12PM
By Rebecca Young
Many people discover tai chi as a result of a traumatic injury or during recovery from surgery, but then embrace tai chi for the unexpected long-term benefits. While individuals may start tai chi for physical rehabilitation or to strengthen bones and muscles, they remain active in the practice due to beneficial changes in other areas of physical and mental improvement. Practitioners find better balance, less danger of falls, lowered stress levels and a calmer outlook on life and relationships. Numerous studies back up the many benefits of tai chi.
Balance and Fall Danger
As published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers at Spain’s University of Jaen analyzed data from 10 randomized controlled trials and reported that older adults that did one-hour tai chi sessions one to three times a week for 12 to 26 weeks were 43 percent less likely to fall. There was also low-quality evidence (based on observation) that tai chi reduced the risk of injurious falls by 50 percent over the short term and by 28 percent over the long term.
The Taoist Tai Chi Society commissioned a study, conducted in 2016 and 2017, to quantify the benefits of tai chi. The study involved more than 18,000 participants, and the results complement the Spanish study. Many individuals reported improved balance and a decrease in falls, which correlates to the slow and methodical steps of tai chi. Practitioners learn to plant one foot completely before moving the body, and many moves involve turning from the hip, rotating the whole upper body. The tai chi movements strengthen the ankles, knees and hips, as well as the core muscles, leading to improved balance, stronger muscles and greater confidence.
Mental Improvement/Lower Stress Levels
Asked about mental health, sixty percent of respondents to the Taoist Tai Chi survey reported that their mood improved, and 36 percent noticed a decreased anxiety level. Forty percent saw improved emotional strength. Tai chi is a moving meditation, requiring concentration for each move while keeping the body relaxed. This gives the practitioner a time to look inward and to escape daily concerns and worries. Many individuals find that their everyday concerns are set aside while doing tai chi, and they discover a new level of relaxation and confidence to cope with life’s challenges.
Relationships and Interpersonal Communication
When we feel better about ourselves, we are better able to interact with and assist others. The Taoist Tai Chi study asked, “Has your practice improved your social situation?” Fifty-nine percent of respondents discovered a larger sense of community and 76 percent reported that they had found new friends. Tai chi helps put daily struggles into perspective and may provide a better outlook on life.
The Taoist Tai Chi Society celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. A number of members have been practicing this form of tai chi for 40 years or more and attest to the many physical and mental benefits of the practice.
Vicki Stanton is a retired librarian from UNF and a practitioner of Taoist Tai Chi. For more information or to find a class, call 904-733-8180, email [email protected] or visit TaoistTaiChi.org and click on “Find a Class”. See ad, page xx.