As we age, our physical abilities change dramatically, and we can’t stop the natural aging process from acting upon us. However, physical activity is important for our health at any age. We may not always be able to be weight training, running marathons, or tearing up the basketball court, but tai chi is an ancient form of martial arts that has been shown to provide many benefits for seniors.
Tai chi makes exercise fun but also relaxing. Keep reading to uncover what makes tai chi so optimal for seniors to help improve their wellbeing.
What is Tai Chi?
Originating from China, tai chi is a martial art that has been in practice for hundreds of years. Throughout history, techniques have been developed for self-defense, and light training. Modern forms have taken different styles and meshed them into unique movements.
In tai chi, breathing, slow and steady movements, as well as meditation, are all incorporated into a routine. The various movements can vary in speed and tempo but continually repeat. It’s usually very easy to follow and learn, and can even involve partners. This form uses a second person to assist the other by pushing on the other’s hands while they move.
Tai Chi for Seniors
With the movements being slower and low impact, tai chi is a wonderful option for seniors. Being a low impact exercise, it preserves joint health and can be easier to work around existing conditions and injuries. The movements are slow, and those practicing it focus on breathing and maintaining balance.
When focused on the exercise, participants find themselves relaxing and relieving any stress. After a session, many say that they feel more at ease, but at the same time also more energized. This is because tai chi helps clear the mind and get the body engaged.
The Benefits of Tai Chi
For seniors, there are several benefits they can experience:
- Balance is improved, which in the long run, reduces the possibility of falls.
- Muscles in the legs are strengthened, and stability in the ankles is increased.
- Core strength is enhanced to help with flexibility and stability.
- Back pain can be alleviated.
- Individuals with chronic and more serious illnesses find themselves feeling stronger.
- Immunity can be boosted.
As well as the physical benefits, there are mental and emotional aspects that tai chi has to offer. Studies have shown improved cognitive function and memory. With the ability to relieve stress and calm oneself, it’s also a great defender against anxiety and depression, which are factors that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
How Seniors Can Get Started With Tai Chi
Many senior living communities offer tai chi through their wellness programs. At The Kensington Sierra Madre, our life enrichment is centered on tai chi and other exercise programs that boost a senior’s health and happiness.
Tai chi is also easy to start because it does not require special equipment and can be done at home. Simply wear loose-fitting clothing and you can find several tutorials just on Youtube alone. Be sure to check with a physician before engaging in this exercise to ensure it does not complicate other conditions and is safe to practice.
What Are Some Basic Movements?
The most important thing to do before any exercise is warm up. This reduces the risk of injury or strain on muscles.
One basic warmup that anyone can do before tai chi is this hip focused one, outlined in these steps:
- Stand tall, with legs slightly apart at hip-width. Keep your arms by your sides to start.
- Slowly rotate the hips to the right and to the left, keeping the arms hanging loosely while doing so.
- Repeat this movement for one to two minutes, and move into the shoulders and neck.
Another beginner-level move called Touch the Sky is especially great for seniors because it can be done in a chair. Many tai chi moves can be replicated in a seated fashion for those seniors who have a harder time balancing on their own.
For Touch the Sky, follow these steps:
- While sitting up straight but comfortably in a chair, place the hands in the lap. Palms must face the ceiling, with fingertips slightly reaching for one another.
- With a deep, slow inhale, raise the hands slowly. Once you reach chest level, turn the palms outward, and then bring your hands over your head.
- With a slow and steady exhale, gently lower your hands back to your sides. Keep the arms just bent slightly and relaxed.
- Return to the starting position with your hands once you have reached the end of the exhale.
- Repeat these steps ten times.
Seniors find themselves rejuvenated physically and mentally by doing regular tai chi. It’s easy to incorporate into a routine and can be done right at home. At The Kensington Sierra Madre, we maintain a healthy and active lifestyle for our residents and cater to their abilities. If you have questions about our community and our life enrichment programs, give us a call today! We promise to love and care for your family as we do our own.