Tai Chi Exercise for Anti Aging
Will 2013 be The Year of T'ai Chi Ch'uan?
Research into the health benefits of practising modern exercise-oriented forms of the martial art of T'ai Chi (more correctly known as T'ai Chi Ch'uan) took leaps and bounds in 2012, when many studies began to demonstrate that this gentle exercise promotes health, peace and well-being and has great potential to overcome many of the symptoms, signs and diseases associated with aging.
Some of the studies are long-term – spanning months or even years – and still ongoing currently, but initial results are very promising.
The Hidden and Most Damaging Signs of Aging
As we age, not only does our skin become a little less elastic, start to give us laughter lines and take away our youthful glow, but our bodies also start to let us down in more worrying areas. Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and those 'senior moments' when you aren't quite sure what you came into the kitchen for become more and more worrying as time goes on, your waist line expands a little, and a walk in the park is no longer, well, a walk in the park.
All of these things are natural. Time passes, and we accumulate stress and toxins over the years, and eventually that must take its toll. But what researchers have found is that T'ai Chi doesn't just stem the tide, but practiced regularly it actually reverses it.
Modern T'ai Chi – Slow and Mindful Movement that Stimulates the Mind and Protects the Body
T'ai Chi has been simplified enormously from intricate and complex movements into something that is no less effective but is much more accessible for the growing mass-market in effective exercise in both the Eastern and Western world.
It still takes time and a great deal of patience to master, but this is part of its charm, and may be perhaps one of the reasons why it has some of its rich benefits. Because where exercise like jogging and walking are repetitive and automatic, T'ai Chi requires thought as well as action. But it also has the gentle flow and rhythm of dance, so that, over time and with practice, concentration and thought becomes something akin to a meditation.
The video below is by Paul Crompton, an expert teacher in the art. The moves look deceptively simple - in fact he has been practising for forty years! But don't let that put you off - the benefits are amazing, and you will be able to master quite a lot in just a few weeks, so watch the video (it's just a few minutes long) and try the exercises along with him a few times. Just remember it's meant to be very slow and flowing. Good luck - and if you can't manage to keep up, don't worry, find a local class because a teacher will take you through the moves very slowly until you get the hang of them.
A Short Video of 'Short Form Tai Chi'
A Marriage of Mind and Body = Peace and Health
In T'ai Chi, stress is still put on the muscles, and there is an aerobic element and some stretching, but these are all built up very gradually: you will learn the movements slowly, and at first you might wonder if it has any real exercise in it at all, but then as you become adept at the intricacies and changes from one pose to another, you will feel your muscles working, and the concentration that you need at first just to work out how to perform the moves will gradually become your mind working with your body. For many people, myself included, this is a turning point when the T'ai Chi session becomes enjoyable and a feeling of self-control really begins. In some ways, it is comparable to yoga flows, but (for me at least) it is much more thoughtful, more dance-like in a slow-motion fashion, and requires much less physical fitness to achieve.
The Many Anti-Aging Benefits of T'ai Chi
If you practice T'ai Chi regularly (an hour three to five days a week), you'll feel some of its benefits for yourself within three months. You'll feel fitter and happier, and you'll start to feel some of your niggling aches and pains disappear. But this is subjective, and based on my own experience, and it would be easy (and perhaps even right) for someone to say that such benefits are all in my mind, and that any regular exercise would produce a feeling of well-being.
And I can't argue with that. But carefully designed research studies have started to demonstrate that this gentle exercise has benefits that are far beyond those of other exercise practices, and its beneficial consequences are very far-reaching in terms of retaining, and even regaining, youthful health and fitness.
Ten Ways T'ai Chi Fights Aging
So far (and research is only just starting to explore the benefits of T'ai Chi, so this list is very impressive and may become much longer as more research is undertaken) there is evidence that T'ai Chi:
- Reduces high blood pressure
- Improves balance and awareness
- Reduces oxidative stress, one of the key factors in the signs and diseases of aging
- Is recommended for people with rheumatologic conditions like fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis
- Improves cardiovascular fitness
- Improves muscular strength.
- Reduces stress, tension, anxiety and depression
- Improves quality of life
- Improves feelings of self-worth
- Improves overall health
- Brings a feeling of inner peace
Research Abstracts on T'ai Chi Studies from PubMed
- T'ai Chi and improved quality of life in diabetics
- Ongoing Study into the beneficial role of T'ai Chi on aging
- Role of Tai Chi in the treatment of rheumatologic conditions
- Mitigation of oxidative damage by T'ai Chi and green tea
- Efficacy of supervised Tai Chi exercises on falls reduction in a group of elderly people
- Study showing improved blood pressure with T'ai Chi
- Elderly experience of long-term practice of T'ai Chi