Tai Chi for Seniors

In this article...
  • Discover the ancient Chinese exercise regime tai chi and why this leisure activity is so popular and beneficial for senior adults.

Practiced by roughly 20% of the global population, tai chi is one of the most popular forms of exercise worldwide

Many doctors encourage seniors to begin tai chi for its multiple health-boosting properties. Understanding more about this pastime and its benefits, especially for seniors, can help you determine whether this leisure activity is for you.

What Is Tai Chi?

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese exercise regimen that has been practiced for centuries as a system of defense, healing, and health. Unlike other martial arts, tai chi is internalized and focuses on developing mental and spiritual strength rather than physical prowess. 

Tai chi’s calm movements and breath control help the body and mind balance its feminine yin and masculine yang sides.

Over the past few decades, it has grown in popularity as a form of gentle exercise and stress reduction with people from all walks of life-including seniors and individuals with chronic conditions such as arthritis.

Are There Different Styles of Tai Chi?

There are various styles of tai chi that originate from China and other nations.

In China, the names of these tai chi styles carry the names of the families that developed them:

  • Chen: The original style is more intense than modern tai chi and emphasizes self-defense.
  • Sun: The newest style involves smooth movements and a higher stance.
  • Yang: The most popular style focuses on gentle, flowing movements.
  • Wu: A variation of Yang tai chi, this style encourages small movements.

As tai chi’s popularity spread around the world, newer styles originated in other countries. There are two styles designed with seniors in mind:

  • Tai Chi Chih: This simple form of tai chi originated in California during the 1970s.
  • Sitting tai chi: As this style of tai chi involves sitting rather than standing, it suits seniors who struggle to stand for long periods or have a history of falls.

Is Tai Chi Good for Seniors?

Tai chi is ideal for seniors as it’s a gentle exercise that suits people of any fitness level. 

It doesn’t require great strength or endurance, and there are variations to suit people with limited mobility. Tai chi provides the benefits of physical activity without putting older bodies under stress.

What Are the Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors?

There are several physical and mental health benefits for seniors practicing tai chi:

  • Improves core stability, balance, and body awareness 
  • Strengthens the core for better posture
  • Helps joint mobility and reduces pain from arthritis, osteoporosis, sciatica, and fibromyalgia
  • Encourages weight loss through calorie-burning
  • Aids understanding of the body and its needs
  • Eases stress and teaches healthy stress relief strategies
  • Lowers blood pressure and improves cardiovascular health
  • Balances cholesterol levels and reduces triglycerides
  • Promotes healthy sleep habits
  • Enhances immunity
  • Boosts mood and reduces anxiety and depression
  • Reduces cognitive decline, especially in people with mild dementia
  • Increases social connections
  • Furthers longevity

Additionally, research indicates that practicing tai chi may reduce the risk of falls by up to 50%.

What Are the Disadvantages of Tai Chi?

Most people find practicing tai chi a positive experience. However, it’s not an exercise for everyone. 

You may find the following disadvantages of tai chi:

  • It’s a non-competitive form of martial arts.
  • It takes patience and time to learn and perfect.
  • It can make muscles tender when you’re learning.
  • It’s best learned in a class setting outdoors, which may make some people feel uncomfortable.
  • Getting in the right mindset can be challenging.

What Is Better for Seniors: Tai Chi or Yoga?

Tai chi and yoga can both be great exercises for seniors as they encourage gentle movements that promote mobility without overly exerting the body. 

However, as tai chi doesn’t involve holding static poses, it is a little easier for most seniors. If you struggle to stay still in yoga positions, tai chi may be a better option. If you already enjoy yoga, you may find that adding tai chi to your schedule is a great way to diversify your workouts.

Why Not Try Tai Chi?

Tai chi is a gentle form of exercise that helps seniors improve their balance and mobility without putting stress on their joints. 

If you’re interested in tai chi, you can search the internet for classes in your local area. In addition, many communities have free tai chi sessions in parks or on the beach, which is perfect for people on budgets and anyone who enjoys exercising outdoors.

About the Author

Zia Sherrell is a digital health journalist with over a decade of healthcare experience, a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Leeds and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Manchester. Her work has appeared in Netdoctor, Medical News Today, Healthline, Business Insider, Cosmopolitan, Yahoo, Harper's Bazaar, Men's Health and more.

When she’s not typing madly, Zia enjoys traveling and chasing after her dogs.

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