Cardio Over 40 | Injury Prevention | Tai Chi
Tai Chi is a form of cardio exercise, meditation and in some forms a martial art. What is often overlooked is when in life it is advisable to switch from more direct cardio pursuits like jogging, and high impact aerobics to a more subtle and less stressful form of exercise. For me at least I had to make that transition in my late thirties after the knee pounding of an Army lifestyle caught up with my arthritis. There is nothing quite like having an Army Colonel, and Orthopedic Surgeon look you in the eye and tell you “You’re running days are over Sergeant.” And have them write what amounts to an order for you to limit your cardio exercise to walking, or low impact activities. It is safe to say that after 18 years of leading Physical Fitness Training from the front I was not happy about that order. Yet being a Senior NCO I knew I had to comply. So Racquetball was out, leading the unit runs was gone, and I had to find other stuff to do.
I had done some Tai Chi earlier in my career with some of my team members, when we were assigned to a forward outpost and didn’t have anything to work out with. No weights, no safe place to run any distance, lot of ‘down’ time sitting around the bunkers on the fire base. My team mate SGT Tommy Chen would practice a form of exercise and meditation every morning he had developed for himself that he called “Sword Hands” it was a variation of Tai Chi and Sword Hands sounded cool to the rest of us so we started doing it together every day. While I can’t say at the time that it made a big difference in our fitness profile as we were pretty fit to start with, it answered the ache to do something and it did noticeably reduce our stress.
Fast forward now to being over fifty (well over) and a bit overweight and looking for a way to resume exercise that will do more good than harm; since every pound I am overweight I feel directly in my knees. I started looking into what might be best for me in the low stress arena and Tai Chi seems to be the best alternative.
It also seems that right around 40 is when the toll starts to kick in for the joggers I have known, the heavier you are framed the sooner the pavement pounding joint damage will become apparent; and in fact it is rare for those over 55 to be able to keep up jogging as a continuing exercise due to the year over year compression of the cartilage in your knees ankles and hips. This is particularly true for females of all sizes as menopause is depleting your calcium.
Researching all this, I found that Tai Chi is a best alternative for more stressful forms of cardio exercise. I have found out that the Tai Chi form itself dates back to the 1500’s. There are many forms (including a Sword form) but it is for me to start with a beginning form along with a Chi Ball (hand size weighted rubber ball). The research also indicated that aside from the low stress aspects I was looking for, Tai Chi is being used in Stroke rehabilitation, Alzheimer’s mitigation, heart failure, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and promotes balance control, flexibility, and muscular fitness in those patients mentioned above and also may significantly enhance injury prevention in healthy seniors as well.
There has been a study that found that tai chi (compared to regular stretching) showed the ability to greatly reduce pain and improve overall physical and mental health in people over 60 with severe osteoarthritis of the knee. In addition, a pilot study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, has found preliminary evidence that tai chi and related qigong may reduce the severity of diabetes.
If you are going to undertake Tai Chi you have two avenues, a beginners instructional DVD or find an instructor near you and sign up for the class. I would recommend the later if at all possible as correct form is essential to reap the benefits of the movements. The American Tai Chi and Qigong Association hosts the The Tai Chi Consumer and Health Information web site formerly hosted by the US Government; so they stand as the recognized authority here in the US. When looking for a class look for their certification from ATCQA.
- Tai Chi Qigong for Health - Information Center Funded by the U.S. Government
Comprehensive and reliable information about the health benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong. Hosted by American Tai Chi and Qigong Association
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