Tai chi, an abbreviation of tàijí quán 太極拳, is an ancient Chinese martial art which has become famous worldwide for its relaxing slow, purposeful movements, which create a sense of well-being.
Tai Chi focuses on breathing techniques and mindful movement of the body. The low-impact exercise can help maintain flexibility and balance, especially during periods of rehabilitation from injury or to preserve quality of life as we get older.
The practice consists of circular movements, where the joints are never fully extended and muscles are relaxed. The series of full body movements engage a wide range of muscles, from your core and legs for balance, to your arms as you hold your poses.
Research has shown benefits of the practice in a range of health issues. Studies have found links between Tai Chi and the relief of joint pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia, improvement of blood glucose levels in patients with Type 2 Diabetes and improved posture, stability and gait in Parkinson’s sufferers.
Whilst Tai Chi delivers gentle exercise, it is also a fantastic tool to combat stress, anxiety and depression.
Much like yoga and meditation, Tai Chi focuses heavily on breathing techniques, with an emphasis on deep, meditative breaths to relax the body and mind. In turn, this relaxation and opportunity to relieve stress often impacts positively on sleep quality.
Whilst the stress relieving aspects of the practice can be felt by anyone who participates, a study from UCLA has shown significant improvement in depression in the elderly following a regular programme of Tai Chi. A study of the effects of Tai Chi on chronic heart failure patients also indicated an improvement in mood, sleep and general quality of life.
To benefit from the mental and physical health boost of Tai Chi, why not find a local Tai Chi class in a nearby park and take full advantage of the relaxing, revitalising effects while out in the fresh air.