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Tai Chi and Your Health A Modern Take on an Ancient Practice


You may have seen the flowing postures and gentle movements of tai chi
and wondered what it’s all about. Tai chi is an ancient mind and body
practice. While more research is needed, studies suggest that it may
have many health benefits.

Tai chi is sometimes referred to as “moving meditation.” There are many
types of tai chi. They typically combine slow movements with breathing
patterns and mental focus and relaxation. Movements may be done while
walking, standing, or sitting.
“At its root, tai chi is about treating the whole person and enhancing
the balance and crosstalk between the body’s systems,” says Dr. Peter
Wayne, a longtime tai chi researcher at Harvard Medical School. “It’s a
promising intervention for preserving and improving many areas of
health, especially in older adults.”

Several studies have found evidence that tai chi can increase balance
and stability in older people and reduce the risk and fear of falls.
Each year, more than one in four older adults falls, and one out of five
of these falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head

“Trying to be careful can make you more prone to falls,” Wayne says.
“Tai chi may help you move more confidently and safely again.” Some
NIH-funded research suggests that tai chi may also improve balance and
prevent falls in people with mild-to-moderate Parkinson’s disease.

Research suggests that practicing tai chi might help improve posture and
confidence, how you think and manage emotions, and your quality of
life. Studies have found that it may help people with fibromyalgia sleep
better and cope with pain, fatigue, and depression.

Regular practice may also improve quality of life and mood in people
with chronic heart failure or cancer. Older adults may find that tai chi
can help improve sleep quality and protect learning, memory, and other
mental functions.

Further study will be needed to fully evaluate and confirm the potential
benefits of tai chi, but since the practice involves moving slowly and
mindfully, there’s little chance of harm when done correctly.

“Whether you’re interested in trying tai chi to help with a chronic
health issue or the stresses of everyday life, tai chi — if taught
properly — can be a great complement to other ways of healthy living and
rehabilitation,” Wayne says. “I think we’re all looking for tools to
help us live productive, long lives with a little more grace and ease.”

There are different styles and ways to practice tai chi, Wayne says. If
you’re interested in trying it, you can start simply. For instance, try
standing behind and holding onto a sturdy chair for support, then
mindfully rock back and forth to build awareness of all the parts of
your body and their connections. Eventually, you might move on to
practice more complex movements or sequences.

Source: NIH News in Health