The most mature members of our society are told to do things like crossword puzzles and other mentally challenging games and exercises to stay sharp. But you can only do so many crossword puzzles a day without feeling like it’s having the opposite effect. Many senior care facilities and community centers are realizing that Tai Chi is just as effective and even more so, than brain teasers alone. And it’s more fun.
Tai Chi is an ancient form of Chinese meditation that involves 19 movements. In just 20 minutes a day, whether by yourself or with a group of friends, the benefits of Tai Chi will quickly become apparent. Believe it or not, Tai Chi is a form of body weight exercise, so it can help reduce bone loss in women. It strengthens the core and lower legs which improves balance, a concern of many older people who may live alone and have a fear of falling. Because the movements of Tai Chi are linked with the breath, it requires greater concentration, resulting in improved mental acuity.
Perhaps the most beneficial product of Tai Chi comes when it’s done in community. As we age, it becomes easier and easier to just sit and watch tv, or do other sedentary activities alone. And the sedentary lifestyle, regardless of age, leads to a host of health problems. When Tai Chi is done in a group, even just a small group, it creates a sense of camaraderie and social connections. Staying social is crucial to healthy aging, and Tai Chi not only keeps us older folks moving, it gives us a place to belong in a culture that loses interest in us as we age.
When you think of Tai Chi, perhaps it’s helpful to think of Zumba in slow motion. It’s a good work-out, it’s fun, it’s social, but it adds the mindfullness component that is missing in many exercise options. It’s not difficult, it’s forgiving, it’s adaptable to everyone’s situation (you can even do Tai Chi from a chair), and it feeds your body that oxygen necessary to release endorphins that make you feel so much better.
There’s no limit to what you can gain from a Tai Chi practice. Take the chance and find or create a Tai Chi group in your community and start healing, strengthening, and having fun.