Tai Chi for Health: Health Benefits for Mind and Body

People of all ages and physical abilities can enjoy and benefit from tai chi.
People of all ages and physical abilities can enjoy and benefit from tai chi. | Source

What Is Tai Chi Chuan?

Tai chi chuan, often referred to as tai chi, is a centuries old form of martial art. In more recent times, tai chi has been embraced as an exercise style/program. The styles of tai chi and their variations that are practiced as an exercise form have been embraced through complementary and alternative medicine; it is being increasingly embraced by the traditional medical community now, too, as an adjunct to traditional treatment.

In the United States alone, 12.5 million adults practiced tai chi in a survey completed in 2007 by the National Health Interview Survey.

Features of Tai Chi: Low Impact, Gentle Movements

Tai chi employs gentle movements that flow from one to another. The traditional form of tai chi is a low impact, weight-bearing exercise, but there are also tai chi movements that can be done while sitting.

Observing a group doing tai chi is unlike observing nearly any other exercise group. The music will be soft and low key and the quiet movements of the participants is mesmerizing. Slow, soft movements that are choreographed to move from one to another; there is no frenetic movement, no trying to keep up with the leader. The individuals look relaxed and almost stately as they move through their routine.

The movements of tai chi mimic those seen in nature. One of the legends of the origin of this martial art/exercise form relate that it stemmed from 13 movements that simulated the actions of animals.


The concentration needed for tai chi's movements and their gentle rhythm help to calm and center your mind.
The concentration needed for tai chi's movements and their gentle rhythm help to calm and center your mind. | Source

How Tai Chi Benefits the Mind

During tai chi exercise, it is important that the individual concentrate on both their breathing and posture. This concentration, coupled with the physical movements and concentration needed to perform each one, allows the individual to be perfectly present in the moment. There is no room for other thoughts; the discipline of tai chi results in a meditative state.

For the duration of the session, whether it be individual or group, you are freed from the worries of the day. For the 15, 30, or more minutes you are performing tai chi, your mind and body are one. Anxiety, sadness, or pressing problems are put aside, allowing your mind and body to rest.

Early research suggests that tai chi relieves stress, improves your overall feeling of well-being, and reduces anxiety and depression, according to MayoClinic.com. Tai chi may also improve your sleep quality.


Tai chi helps to improve circulation to all parts of the body. Your body can function best when oxygen-rich blood reaches all body parts.
Tai chi helps to improve circulation to all parts of the body. Your body can function best when oxygen-rich blood reaches all body parts. | Source

How Tai Chi Benefits the Body

Like any form of exercise, tai chi aids in increasing blood circulation. The return flow of blood to the heart from the veins in your lower legs depends in part on muscle movement. The breathing done during tai chi aids in better oxygenating your blood, which may increase the oxygen your brain receives.

The practice of tai chi helps to improve balance and flexibility. Coordination and strength are improved, as is overall wellness. Tai chi helps some people reduce pain and stiffness and increases energy and stamina.

This exercise form is also promoted for older adults to aid in decreasing falls and improving cardiovascular fitness. Some cardiac rehabilitation programs are now incorporating tai chi into their programs.

Tai Chi for Health; Dr. Paul Lam

The Mind/Body Connection of Tai Chi

The mind/body connection effects of tai chi are more difficult for scientists to test than those of the mind or body singly. Traditional medicine -- Western medicine -- depends on the scientific method of clinical research to determine safety and effectiveness of treatments before it can officially embrace them.

Although there is much research ongoing and likely to be done in the future on the benefits of tai chi, it may be a long time, if ever, that traditional medicine will be able to explain and endorse the mind/body connection.

Practioners of alternative and complementary medicines have long recognized the benefits of tai chi to both mind and body by observing the outcomes. It is thought that it's likely the practice of tai chi helps to align the energy force within both the mind and body, the "chi" or "qi."

Seated Tai Chi

Research into Benefits of Tai Chi

Atherosclerosis and High Blood Pressure: A recently published clinical research study demonstrated that regularly practiced tai chi promotes healthier vessel wall flexibility. This may aid in the reduction of blood pressure because vessel walls that are flexible have more "give and take" to them than the often hardening of the arteries associated with atherosclerosis, a condition many people develop as they age. This study also revealed increased muscle strength in the tai chi participants.

Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteroarthritis and Fibromyalgia: The results of an analysis of multiple research studies involving tai chi and its benefits for people with rheumatic illnesses, under which all three of these conditions are grouped, was published December 2010. The report, written by a medical doctor, suggests that tai chi is appropriate as a primary therapy tool to decrease pain and promote improved well-being in people with osteoarthritis and/or fibromyalgia. It is also recommended that tai chi is useful as an adjunct therapy in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Psychological Well-Being: Tai chi has successfully demonstrated through multiple studies that its participants exhibit decreased depression and anxiety. There is also an improvement i mood disturbances and ability to cope with stress, and an improvement in self-esteem.

Parkinson's Disease: There is good news for people with mild-to-moderate Parkinson's disease who practice tai chi reports the Oregon Research Institute. A four year, multi-facility study of the effects of tailored tai chi program practiced twice a week by study participants with mild-to-moderate Parkinson's disease resulted in an improved walking gait, improved posture and decreased falls.

Persistent Low Back Pain: In a randomized, controlled trial in Australia with 160 participants ranging in age from 18 years to 70 years and each with nonspecific persistent (chronic) low back pain, half of the participants were provided 18 40-minute tai chi sessions with a qualified instructor in a 10-week period while the other half of the participants continued with their regular health care. At the end of the 10-week period, the participants who'd practiced tai chi reported improvement in back pain intensity, the "bothersomeness" of the back pain and improved ability to move. Researchers concluded that tai chi is a safe and effective practice for those experiencing chronic low back pain.

These clinical research results are just the tip of the iceberg into what medical science is learning about tai chi.


Tai Chi Has Its Origins in Ancient China

Precautions to Observe with Tai Chi

As with any form of exercise, before beginning a new practice you should consult your health care provider. Althought tai chi is very often endorsed by the health care community as an adjunct treatment in some conditions, only your health care provider can speak to your individual needs and condition. This is particularly true if you are pregnant, have osteoporosis, or joint problems.

Tai chi masters encourage you, whenever possible, to learn the exercises from a credible tai chi teacher. DVDs and other media abound that will instruct you how to do tai chi at home, but only a live person can address any questions you may have or suggest ways to improve your technique to get the most benefit.

Tai chi masters discourage doing these exercises right after eating, if you are very tired, or if you have an infection.

Learn More About Tai Chi

The Philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan: Wisdom from Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Other Great Thinkers
The Philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan: Wisdom from Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Other Great Thinkers

The information here helps in understanding the underlying philosophies and theories that has formed tai chi.

 
The Essence of T'ai Chi
The Essence of T'ai Chi

Principles of tai chi explained by tai chi master.

 

This hub is informational only and not intended to be construed as medical advice. Consult your health care provider for information about your individual situation.

More by this Author


Comments 55 comments

sandrabusby profile image

sandrabusby 4 years ago from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

Thanks, L.L., for this beautifully written and comprehensive hub on Tai Chi. Maybe sooner than we all think traditional medicine will begin to realize the benefits of energy balancing exercises.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Sandrabusby, thank you for your kind words. There is so much to learn about tai chi and similar disciplines, I know I've barely scratched the surface. I hope to learn more as I go along.

I hope you're rght about traditional medicine being more accepting of tai chi and the like; it would be to the benefit of everyone involved.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

I'm getting to an age now where this will prove extremely valuable. Voting this Up and Useful. Thanks for SHARING.


strkngfang profile image

strkngfang 4 years ago

Very nice & so true. I've been practicing the Yang short form of Tai Chi for a year and love it. Thanks for sharing and promoting!!


miakouna profile image

miakouna 4 years ago

Great hub. Thanks for sharing. I found this very useful.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Hello Alocsin, I hope I didn't give the impression that tai chi is only for older people. It's true that it's a discipline from which older folks can derive many benefits, but is intended for all adult age groups.

Thanks for SHARING.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Strkngfang, I'm happy to hear from folks who are already engaged in tai chi and reaping the benefits. Perhaps you could briefly explain what is meant by the "short form?"

I appreciate your read and thank you for SHARING.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Miakouna, delighted you stopped by and enjoyed the information.

Thank you for SHARING.


strkngfang profile image

strkngfang 4 years ago

There are different styles of Tai Chi. I learned the Yang short form taught by Terry Dunn, through my instructor in Tracy kenpo karate. There is also a Yang long form. There are demonstrations of both forms all over YouTube that are neat to watch. The form is still quite extensive so the "short" is misleading. It takes me a good 12-15 min to go through it.


BarryCross profile image

BarryCross 4 years ago from York, UK

Excellent Hub and valuable information. Voted up, useful and socially shared. Cheers Barry :)


Sue Adams profile image

Sue Adams 4 years ago from Andalusia

I love Tai Chi for grounding, balance, strength and flexibility and especially for the serene feeling you get during and after a class. The best way is to do it outdoors in the fresh air.


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

I have been planning to do the Tai Chi but until now it is still my one of my to do list. I would love to do it. Thanks for SHARING this. Voted up and useful.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Strkngfang, thank you for returning and explaining about some of the styles/forms of tai chi. I'm headed to youtube to check out some videos.


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 4 years ago

Well done hub. Tai Chi offers so many benefits and deserves more attention. Voted up and useful.


Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 4 years ago from Somewhere in Asia

Good hub. Although I don't practice Tai Chi, I know people that swear by it and have also found that while stretching I will reach that meditative state too. Stretching and moving slowly lets you learn your body (often finding new muscles lol).

Shared, up and interesting.


EinderDarkwolf profile image

EinderDarkwolf 4 years ago from Tempe, A.Z.

Very informative and well written. I've loved the Martial Arts since I was a kid and I always found the "flowing meditation" of Tai Chi easier than the "still meditation". Voted Up and Shared. Very Good!


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Great well written and informative hub on Tai Chi . I do my Tai Chi every morning,i have been doing it now for eight years it has made a big difference in my life, couldn't start my day without doing it .

Vote up and more !!!


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

BarryCross, thank you for stopping by. I appreciate the kind words.

Thank you for SHARING.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Sue Adams, I so appreciate your read and your personal feedback on tai chi. Doing the routine outside does seem like a natural fit for this discipline.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Thelma Alberts, I hope you are able to find a tai chi group to join. If so, drop me a few lines to let me know what you think about it.

Thank you for SHARING.


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 4 years ago

Wonderful Hub on Tai Chi L.L...It is so Beneficial. I haven't gotten into it yet...But I am certainly Tempted after reading your Informative and very Interesting Hub. Thanks for sharing.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Toknowinfo, I agree with you that tai chi is beneficial in so many ways. I'm doing what I can to spread the word.

Thank you for the read, your comment and the vote.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Brett.Tesol, I understand exactly what you mean about finding muscles I'd forgotten I had! Tai chi is just one discipline that allows its practitioners to become more in tune with themselves, as you've mentioned about your stretching routine.

Thank you for SHARING.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

EinderDarkwolf, thank you for your kind comments. I am like you; "resting" or peaceful meditation alone never worked for me, but combining the movement of my body with the concentration required for the movements allows me to find that quiet center within.

Thanks for SHARING.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Kashmir56, thanks for your comments and votes. Eight years of tai chi? That is awesome. Have you ad any success in encouraging friends/family to try it?


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 4 years ago

Hi L.L., I also have been trying to spend the word about Tai Chi. Many months ago, I wrote a hub on this topic too.


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi LL, I have tried to get friends/family to try doing Tai Chi but have had no success,but my ex girlfriend used to do it with me when we were still friendly and still together.

SHARING !


Jenna Pope profile image

Jenna Pope 4 years ago from Southern California

This sounds relaxing and beneficial to health. Voted up.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Toknowinfo...mea culpa, I will be checking out your hub on tai chi very soon. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Kashmir56, it seems like it should be easy enough to encourage others to give tai chi a try, but I have been gently prodding a couple family members for a while now. They have commented that they've noticed a more calmer "me" lately, so maybe that will be the key. At least you were able to get one other person interested.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Jenna Pope, I find that tai chi is both relaxing and invigorating both physically and mentally.

Thank you for the read, comment and vote.


Maralexa profile image

Maralexa 4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

Thank you for a great hub. I have spoken to a number of friends about joining a tai chi group but no one is interested so I will be joining alone. I really do wish to learn this graceful balancing exercise.


mwilliams66 profile image

mwilliams66 4 years ago from Left Coast, USA

I have RA and have been looking for a form of exercise that will not only build my physical strength, but also aid in relaxation. I had heard that Tai Chi could be a wonderful option. I'm thrilled that I cam across your hub as it has given me enough information to confirm those brief bits I had heard about Tai Chi. Thank you for posting such a wonderful, comprehensive hub.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

I appreciate everyone's kind comments and happy that you've found the information on tai chi to be interesting and/or helpful.

I also apologize for the delay in responding to your comments. I've been attending to family health matters and been away from the computer for some time.

Thanks for SHARING.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

Great hub! I love tai chi and have taken "lessons" in the past. It is a great physical and meditative process and this is so informative and helpful and healthful. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

SuzetteNaples, I'm pleased to learn your experiences with tai chi have been positive ones. So far, I haven't had negative feedback from anyone about this ancient discipline.


Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 4 years ago from Somewhere in Asia

Stumbled upon this again, but this time it has inspired me to give it a try :-).

Shared, up and awesome!


laadhy profile image

laadhy 4 years ago from Maldives- The Paradise on Earth

wow nice hub..enjoyed reading.


CloudExplorer profile image

CloudExplorer 4 years ago from New York City

I loved reading this hub so much, because I use to do Tai Chi years back, and need to get back into doing it daily. I never ever thought of sitting Tai Chi, wow, that really is a great idea.

What got me into it all was watching a few movies, and I use to play basketball so I needed to find a way to practice my moves when the gymnasium was closed, and so it came in handy.

Awesome informative hub, and it is accurate in every way, also thanks for the tutorial videos, cool stuff here.

Voted up! and out for sure.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Yoga like tai chi has some of its asanas-the yogic exercises- based on the postures of animals. In that and fact that these movements are unhurried and done with full concentration, the basic principle in both appears the same.

Wonderfully informative hub. I need to learn more about this healthy regime.

Voted yp, useful and interesting and shared.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia

Hello, this was such a well done article. I love tai chi. It requires kinetic memory and it can be great for your balance and toning muscle if you really move with concentrated control. Enjoyed this. Thanks for publishing this.


bridalletter profile image

bridalletter 4 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

Many worthwhile benefits. Good for all of us to use this exercise daily.


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

Thanks for all this great info on Tai Chi. I have been meaning to start classes, but haven't done it yet. Now, I am inspired.

I voted this Hub UP, etc.etc.


ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 4 years ago

I love Tai chi because of the slow movement. It is very relaxing. Thanks for sharing all the benefits when you do this kind of exercise.

Thanks L.L.Woodard!


midget38 profile image

midget38 4 years ago from Singapore

I agree so much with these benefits, LL Woodard. My grandad was an ardent practitioner before he passed away, and it helped him greatly. He passed away quite peacefully, I think this helped his state of mind! Thanks for the share! Am sharing as well!


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Midget38, I appreciate you stopping by and commenting. That's inspiring to realize your grandfather's state of mind was positively affected by tai chi.

Thanks for sharing.


janshares profile image

janshares 4 years ago from Washington, DC

Excellent, very well organized, and informative. I love tai chi, have been practicing for 10 years. Im gathering info for my next hub on my experience. Voted up, useful, and awesome. Namaste.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

I am so appreciative of the many reads, shares and kind comments! Janshares, I am looking forward to reading your hub about your personal experiences with tai chi.

My apologies for not responding to each and everyone who has commented; I've been away from HP for while, but have returned with new-found enthusiasm. I wish you all the best of success.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Hi L.L.Woodard,

Tai chi seems to be based on the same principle of animal movements like yoga. It is beautiful to see how these slow, graceful and fluent motions give so much of health benefits.

The write up is excellent and the videos awesome.

Voting it up, useful, interesting and sharing on g+1.


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Rajan Jolly, it is fascinating to discover what is before our very eyes and yet we do not see -- the interplay and interdependence of all things in nature and human beings.

Thank you for the read, your comment and for Sharing.


Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 4 years ago from Somewhere in Asia

Hi L.L.Woodward.

In answer to your question (sorry that it was slow, I've been changing countries), although I have not taken it up yet, I have started stretching regularly along with slow movement exercises. I feel that I need to get a bit more limber, before entering a full program.

Shared again for viewers to take up this healthy habit ;-)


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Brett, I understand what you're saying. I feel about as limber as a baked pretzel, so working on flexibility. I've begun with a simple and brief morning and evening tai chi dvd. So far, so good.

Hope your move went well. Thank you for sharing.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

We have seen Tai Chi being performed in a San Francisco park and it is like you describe...slow and gentle movements. Reading your hub makes me realize just how beneficial it is to learn how to do this. Up, useful and definitely sharing. Thanks!


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City Author

Peggy W, I'm happy you found both this hub and the tai chi practitioners in San Francisco to be inspiring. I've encountered people from different age groups and certainly different shapes and physical abilities join in group tai chi. Unlike zumba classes or other high-energy, high-impact types of exercise, tai chi seems to bring each of us to a level playing field.

Thank you for Sharing.


aesta1 profile image

aesta1 22 months ago from Ontario, Canada

I learned tai chi from a teacher in Hanoi and I try to practice regularly. I was happy I stuck to it.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working