Tai Chi: Relaxation Technique and Weight-Loss Aid

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
7/5/2012 10:00 AM   :  30 comments   :  16,375 Views

See More: stress, stretching, exercise,
Tai Chi has become an increasingly popular form of exercise for all age groups, but current research has shown how it can be especially beneficial for older individuals.  This graceful sequence of gentle, flowing movement combines physical postures with mindful focus, making it a great fit for those who find other forms of exercise too strenuous.

But Tai Chi isn't only used for relaxation purposes--it may also be a useful exercise for those working toward weight loss.  In a study that observed obese postmenopausal women, the subjects that participated in three 45-minute Tai Chi classes a week lost similar amounts of body fat as the diet-only group, but maintained greater muscle mass (meaning that the group lost less muscle or fat-free mass as a result of dieting). 

Additionally, several studies have suggested that postmenopausal women who regularly do Tai Chi may maintain a greater level of bone mineral density than women who don't include that type of exercise in their routine.  One study in particular found that Tai Chi practitioners have a higher lumbar and femur bone mineral density than people of a similar age who are sedentary.  As a result of these and other studies in this field, Tai Chi has been proposed as a good alternative to other types of exercise for women with low bone mineral density, as it also improves balance and has low risk of injury.

The basic foundation of Tai Chi consists of a rhythmic sequence of movements that integrate focused breathing and mindfulness to help reduce stress and reach a state of calm energy.   The intensity of the practice depends on the type of Tai Chi as well as level of expertise. There are many styles to choose from to fit a wide range of physical abilities.  The main focus in Tai Chi is on improving form, not attaining great strength or cardio gains, so even people who are not fit can take part in this type of exercise.  The melding of focused breathing with each movement creates a relaxing, tension-decreasing state that can last far beyond the duration of the exercise period.

Key Benefits of Tai Chi:
-Requires no equipment
-Improves balance
-Helps reduce anxiety and depression
-May reduce fall risk in older individuals
-Improves endurance and agility
-May help lower blood pressure
-Can improve mental focus and well-being
-Improves sleep quality
-May improve bone mineral density
-Helps to maintain muscle mass during weight loss

What's great about Tai Chi is that nearly anyone can practice it and work at their own pace and ability.  The gentle movement allows even those with joint and strength issues to safely take part in a Tai Chi program.  The Arthritis Association promotes Tai Chi as a beneficial exercise for those with arthritis, and offers Tai Chi classes in many areas. You can check out what's available near you by clicking here.

for DVDs that offer great instruction specifically for women who would like to learn Tai Chi, click here.

Would you be interested in trying Tai Chi? If you already do Tai Chi, how has it helped you?


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Comments

  • 30
    I have been in a Tai Chi class since March 2013. It has helped with my balance. However, due to arthritis, I usually end up doing a good part of it from a chair which provides much upper body movement. I have one dvd and plan on purchasing one from "yang" Tai Chi which is the version I have been learning at the YMCA. - 12/30/2013   3:01:18 PM
  • TIMMYCARL143
    29
    Tai Chi, Yoga etc. As well as it helps boost our lifestyle to better one then why should we not try them. As it is very helpful to us. We are the main beneficiary on what we are doing , right..

    See my blog on further lessons on how to overcome on this things easily. @ www.performwell.co.uk . - 8/30/2012   9:22:51 PM
  • 28
    Tai Chi is my favorite form of exercise. I started at Gilda's club while I was in my cancer recovery phase. Now that I've moved to Oakland I need to find a new class to join (preferably free). - 8/1/2012   3:27:11 PM
  • AMBER461
    27
    I think I would love to try tai chi. I will have to buy a dvd so that I can practice it. - 7/16/2012   9:21:06 PM
  • 26
    I have always thought this was so graceful and beautiful. Now I'm seeing that is different levels for healing, seniors, women, and more martial arts. As I have relaxation issues plus a bad back this just might be the right exercises for me! I am so glad you put this up. Mu husband took it years ago and it is something we could do together. - 7/9/2012   2:43:38 AM
  • 25
    I have always thought this was so graceful and beautiful. Now I'm seeing that is different levels for healing, seniors, women, and more martial arts. As I have relaxation issues plus a bad back this just might be the right exercises for me! I am so glad you put this up. Mu husband took it years ago and it is something we could do together. - 7/9/2012   2:08:45 AM
  • GREENZWIGGLE
    24
    i will try this. it looks so relaxing - 7/8/2012   3:37:08 AM
  • LADY42LU
    23
    I wish they would have put some excerises on here for us to try and see what it is. - 7/6/2012   11:33:08 PM
  • DIADEM1
    22
    I have been doing Tai-chi since the late 1960's, including slow forms, animal forms, push hands, the self defense aspects (Tai-chi-Chuan) and a form of chi-gung exercise called "Zookinesis Age Reversal Exercises". I find it is the Zookinesis that keeps me really fit because it works every joint and muscle and keeps the connective tissue elastic.

    All of the Tai-chi practices allow me to be calm and centered under stress. The animal forms are a lot of fun to do and the push hands exercise ( a two person interaction) allows me to be aware of and let go of patterns of tension. And that frees up a lot of energy. - 7/6/2012   10:24:20 PM
  • 21
    I would definitely love to try Tai Chi. - 7/6/2012   9:33:37 PM
  • 20
    I often think I would like to try it. Thanks for the DVD info. - 7/6/2012   3:40:36 PM
  • 19
    Poster #4 seems to have an impression that Tai-Chi is a religion! Couldn't be more off track. Several religious groups have adopted varieties of Tai-Chi, but the basic practice is actually more military than worship. I love it; it's a great way to get into touch with one's self and become more fully integrated as a physical person. - 7/6/2012   3:33:38 PM
  • 18
    Feel like I need Tai Chi, but must combine with something I can do at home. - 7/6/2012   3:17:55 PM
  • 17
    I have a beginner's guide to Tai Chi and keep forgetting to use it. I will bring it out and use it after reading this promising article. Will also check out more DVD's if it seems to help me. - 7/6/2012   2:28:44 PM
  • 16
    I want to do Tai Chi because of the many health benefits that come with it. It is also one of the few exercise programs that would be gentle enough on my back for me to do. I am having a problem with finding the right program/DVD. I would love any suggestions on where to find a good Tai Chi program/ DVD. - 7/6/2012   1:49:26 PM
  • GMAGEE
    15
    Used to do Tai Chi, hosting the classes in a loft we lived in, but the teacher was a Master from China and had little patience with those of us who couldn't perfect our technique. Did enjoy it: the steady breathing and being so aware of the movement of your body through space. It is a lovely form of exercise and I wouldn't mind getting back to it. Thanks for the reminder...and the link to the DVD. - 7/6/2012   10:50:53 AM
  • LOUVONNE1
    14
    I've learned the first level of Tai Chi...years ago. Reading this article, I will get back into it.
    The feeling while you're doing it is inexplicable! After, you realise you've had a good workout, physically, mentally and spiritually.
    Thanks for reminding me.
    - 7/6/2012   8:36:32 AM
  • 13
    Thank you for including a link so that I could find a certified instructor nearby. As I read, I had been thinking "This sounds like something which might be a good addition, but how would I find a competent persin to teach me?". Then I found the link! Have bookmarked it for future reference. - 7/6/2012   6:38:03 AM
  • BARBARASCH
    12
    I just love Tai-Chi. I have a class once a week and since we are doing it at the correct "speed" (means, moving in slow-mo), it is really tiring and very intense on the muscles (especially thighs, lower back and abs). I am not at the point yet, where the movements come from alone but I'm getting there ;)) - 7/6/2012   5:05:59 AM
  • TOPAZMOON1964
    11
    Wow....I have seen Tai Chi on TV, but never considered doing it until I read this article. I definitely want to get a DVD and add it to my daily workout - 7/6/2012   4:19:27 AM
  • 10
    I can't think about this without recalling what my sensei used to always say "if we need to ever do that when we get old we can just do really SLOW kata !!" - 7/5/2012   9:36:44 PM
  • 9
    I plan to get a DVD and try Tai Chi.
    It looks like something I will enjoy and find helpful. Thanks for the great information! - 7/5/2012   9:30:58 PM
  • 8
    I plan to get a DVD and try Tai Chi.
    It looks like something I will enjoy and find helpful. Thanks for the great information! - 7/5/2012   9:30:57 PM
  • ALDEBARANIAN
    7
    I've done a little. You sure will strengthen your leg muscles with T'ai Chi! - 7/5/2012   5:48:15 PM
  • 1954MARG
    6
    I have done Tai Chi in the past and found it helps to increase strength, flexibility and relaxation as well as concentration. If you are not sure if you would fit into a group ask the tutor if you can join for a couple of tasters and watch a group. The attitudes depend on the tutor. Some have that " worshipful" attitude that another sparker mentions and take it all very seriously. That wouldn't suit me either, but some have a light- hearted approach that does. Tai chi is really like a slow motion version of karate, and as you practice and repeat movements while imagining that you are pushing against resistance you will find that your core muscles get stronger. It takes several weeks before you start to feel a difference as it takes a while to begin learn routines. One description of Tai chi is that is a "walking meditation". One of the aims is to train yourself to empty your mind as you find your attention wandering while you do the exercises. This helps mental relaxation which benefits blood pressure and concentration. Some people have religious beliefs that suspect an empty mind is an invitation to evil. They can rest at ease. It is impossible to empty your mind. The meditation is a mental exercise in directing your concentration away from things that would divert you from awareness of what you are actually doing at that moment. It is an exercise to encourage mindfulness and self awareness, both of these can help us to overcome the challenges that life puts in our path. - 7/5/2012   5:12:40 PM
  • KSCARLE71
    5
    Tthinking about trying it. they offer a lass at one of the local gyms - 7/5/2012   4:31:18 PM
  • 4
    every time I try to learn more bout this, I get turned off by the worshipful tones the people use to introduce and encourage the viewer to try their "exercise" . I'm not interested in worshiping anybody but God, and definitely not my body. My body is a tool to get me through life not an object of worship. yeuhhk. - 7/5/2012   2:49:57 PM
  • 3
    I have seen Tai Chi classes offered but not taken one yet. I am considering it though. - 7/5/2012   12:15:17 PM
  • 2
    I've been practicing tai chi since 1995 and have been with my current teacher since 2003. I love that it's very portable because I travel a lot! I can practice anywhere--I even do a modified version in the pool at hotels. I'm one of those people who's always running in 5th gear, and I like that this helps me downshift. - 7/5/2012   11:51:51 AM
  • 1
    I love Tai Chi! I had been intrigued by it for a very long time, but finally took my first class a year ago. For something that looks very flow-y and peaceful, you can really work up a sweat! I love how you don't need any equipment and can do it in even a very small space. I've done the form in bathrooms and empty elevators before, as well as on the beach. It has really helped my fibromyalgia symptoms. Even a few minutes makes my joints feel more limber and gets me more in touch with my strength and balance. - 7/5/2012   10:44:37 AM

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