Five benefits of tai chi

When people think of exercises that help both the body and the mind, it’s usually yoga that first springs to mind. But is it the only option?

The Chinese martial art of tai chi, which was originally developed as a means of self-defence, is well worth considering, no matter your age or your physical ability.

Here are five reasons why.

1. Anyone, anytime, anywhere

Tai chi is the perfect form of exercise for everyone, no matter your age or your level of fitness. It’s comprised of slow, focused movements alongside deep breathing: a gentle, slow motion form of meditation where each move flows into the next.

Because these movements are so gentle and so low-impact, tai chi is great for all ages and all fitness levels and abilities. It’s why, as well as my regular classes, I’m able to offer sessions for those with long-term neurological health issues too.

With no specialist equipment needed, and the ability to do tai chi both indoors and outdoors, at home or elsewhere, it’s an exercise that you can enjoy wherever and whenever you want.

2. Improve your flexibility and balance

While its movements are gentle, tai chi can still have a big impact on your flexibility. It allows you to gently stretch muscles in both the upper and lower body, gradually increasing your flexibility as well as your strength.

What’s more, studies have shown that tai chi can also aid balance in older adults. This may help to prevent trips and falls – and could also make it easier to recover from a stumble.

3. Aerobic conditioning

Tai chi is a low impact exercise – so for many of those who choose it, improving aerobic capacity may not be high on the agenda. However, if you’re starting from a low level of fitness and looking to build up, tai chi can be ramped up to provide even more health benefits as your ability increases. By performing the movements at a faster speed and with a greater size, you can certainly start to get your heart going a little bit quicker.

4. Improved sleep

If you find that you struggle to switch off at night, that you wake frequently during sleeping hours or that sleep eludes you for another reason, you’ve most likely tried many things to improve it. But have you tried tai chi? We all know that regular exercise can help to improve your sleeping patterns – and despite its low impact, tai chi is no different.

The benefits of tai chi to mental health can also have an impact on your sleep, too. A number of people who practise tai chi say that their quality of sleep has improved since they started practising – and there are studies that show how tai chi can help with sleep for both healthy adults and those living with chronic conditions.

5. Parasympathetic nervous system benefits

The parasympathetic nervous system is a network of nerves which has multiple functions. It helps to relax you after a period of danger or stress, and also helps to control the digestive system.

Tai chi engages the parasympathetic nervous system, helping it to handle periods after heightened physical and digestive activity. As such, you may find that practising tai chi regularly can help to slow your heart rate, as well as improve digestion.

There are many other benefits to practising tai chi, including pain management, improving muscle definition, and regulating your breathing. With so many positive outcomes to this form of exercise, it’s easy to see why this form of “meditation in motion” is so popular amongst so many people.

If you’re looking for tai chi classes in Devon, you can learn more about my classes here.

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