Tai Chi for seniors, I believe, is one of the best modes of exercise around. I have practiced Tai Chi (the full name is Tai Chi Chuan) or yoga off and on over the years.
As you may know, it comes from ancient China as a martial art at first, later developing into an effective and healthful exercise routine, as well as relaxing. Similarly, yoga can relax and re-energize as well, but you need to be aware of certain factors when practicing yoga for seniors.
I first became familiar with Tai Chi back around 1993 or so when my kids were still kids, via a friend in martial arts. She invited us to a demonstration given by her school one evening. Towards the middle of the demo, the instructor had us all stand up and taught us some simple movements for about ten minutes.
Well, let me just say -- I was astonished with how I became energized. In the evening when I would have been ready to crash. It felt like my whole body was sort of buzzing with energy. I was clear-headed and full of enthusiasm. All in ten minutes.
Briefly, Tai Chi was begun by a Chinese Taoist monk who modeled the movements (also now known as Sets or Forms) that he developed loosely after various animal movements.
It also incorporates the ancient concept of our yin and yang energies and keeping them in balance for better health (now very familiar even in the West). The ancient philosophy stresses relaxation and tranquility.
Tai Chi for seniors involves a series of very slow-motion, relaxed movements, one flowing into the next, so that the body is continually in a graceful motion until finished. It is almost dance-like and meditative.
It can be practiced either alone or in a group. (It’s ideal for doing outdoors on your patio or park area). These are low-impact motions, yet are considered weight-bearing, so excellent for increasing bone and muscle strength.
Deep breathing is included, so Tai Chi is also a mildly aerobic exercise routine. Concentrating on the movements and breathing together helps us become more able to relax our thinking and emotions.
I can also say that it definitely helps with better sleep (aging and sleep issues often go hand in hand), and it is an effective restless leg syndrome treatment as well. It's also good for your heart. Another benefit is lowering blood sugar levels for those with Type 2 diabetes.
Overall, the benefits of Tai Chi make it an excellent exercise
for seniors. Besides muscle and bone strength, sleep improvement and
help with restless legs, it can also help us develop better posture,
balance, thus less chance for falling. And as I mentioned earlier,
another result is an increase in energy levels.
As with other routines that involve body movements, stiffness and mild pain can greatly improve (although you might experience temporary slight stiffness or soreness from the exercising itself). Tai Chi for seniors is often recommended for those with arthritis. It can be very good for general elderly health care.
Best Ways To Learn
But as usual, before you begin any exercise program, be sure to check with your health professional. It may be possible to modify some of the movements as needed.
It’s best to learn Tai Chi for seniors from an instructor because each movement should ideally be done in a specific way, especially if it needs to be individualized. Physical therapists have included modified movements in their work with patients.
Many senior centers offer classes, as do yoga centers. And if you can get a group together, these instructors may agree to come to your facility or campus to conduct classes there for you. It’s a great group activity idea.
Tai Chi is fast becoming a more and more popular way to improve health for all ages, including as exercises for the elderly.