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Tai chi, also known as shadow-boxing, is a mind-body exercise developed by the Chinese as a “soft” martial art in the 17th century. This low-impact workout involves slow, intentional movements and deep breaths to achieve a meditative state of mind. It makes you mindful of what your body is doing and how it feels.

About 20% of the world’s population practices Tai chi to improve their balance, stability, and resilience; it’s time you start too!

Learn why here:

The Health Benefits of Tai Chi

Tai chi is an incredibly valuable wellness routine that facilitates the flow of Qi—the vital energy that unites the body, mind, and spirit, essential to the survival of life.

It is one of the most popular forms of exercise, as a growing body of research shows it can be an alternative therapy for neurological, rheumatological, orthopedic, and cardiopulmonary diseases.

It Improves Quality of Life

Tai chi movements, when paired with Chinese folk music, can enhance the quality of life of community-dwelling older people with mild to moderate depression. This paves the way for healthy aging, considering the incidence of depression in that demographic is 27.5%.

Another study has shown it can also reduce stress, providing the same benefits as traditional exercise.

Tai Chi and Qigong (TCQ) has been shown to have a beneficial effect on fatigue, sleep difficulty, anxiety, and depression in cancer survivors. A 2021 review backs this, showing just 40 to 60 minutes of thrice weekly supervised Tai Chi training for 8 to 12 weeks can improve fatigue and sleep quality in cancer survivors.

It Helps with Dementia

There is no cure for dementia, but certain exercises and techniques can alleviate some symptoms. Tai chi has shown promise in improving the cognitive function of persons with dementia.

It Enhances Physical Health

According to a systematic review and meta-analysis of 52 studies, regular practice of Tai chi can do wonders for physical fitness. It can improve handgrip and lower limb strength, postural balance, and spine flexibility, among other important markers.

Further evidence is required to solidify this finding in the younger population, but one thing is echoed: it helps cope with osteoarthritis, COPD, and fibromyalgia.

It Reduces the Risk of Falling

The risk of falling increases with age, and older people will likely have much worse outcomes than young, healthy ones. This puts them at risk for hip, forearm, and pelvis fractures. The risk multiplies if they have osteoporosis, which makes bones weak and brittle.

And that, inevitably, gives them a fear of falling. This problem runs deeper than you’d think, as it makes seniors avoid activities of daily living (ADLs). This leads to functional decline, which leads to more muscle weakness.

Fortunately, tai chi can tackle this issue for older adults by improving balance and motor function, thus increasing their independence power.

It Improves Cardiovascular Health

In 2020, cardiovascular diseases affected the lives of 523 million people around the globe. This is set to increase over the years.

Tai chi has been shown to reduce the incidence of chronic cardiovascular diseases in the Chinese population. In addition, it could be a reasonable adjunct to conventional care in patients with early detection of cardiovascular risk factors or as a bridge for frail or deconditioned patients.

It Ensures Aerobic Conditioning

Tai chi is also a fantastic aerobic exercise, which improves the capacity of the cardiorespiratory system to supply oxygen and how the skeletal muscles utilize it.

Research suggests that when done consistently over a year, it can provide significant benefits to sedentary adults with low levels of physical activity.


Getting Started with Tai Chi

Do you want to tap into the many benefits of this incredible art and exercise from China?

Start by Consulting a Doctor

Tai chi works for all ages, lifestyles, and health conditions. This is backed by a 2019 meta-analysis, which shows that this mind-body exercise does not have more adverse effects than active/inactive control conditions.

That said, if you have these conditions, be sure to get a get-go from your doctor before starting it:

  • Recent injuries
  • Overweight or obese
  • Recent infections
  • Chronic conditions

It’s also best to exercise caution if you’re a senior, pregnant, or sedentary. Due diligence will minimize the risk of aches and pains.

Learn by Observing

Starting a new type of exercise can be anxiety-inducing. Fortunately, there are many resources available.

You can learn from professionals online via YouTube to understand its nuances before you take the leap. Deyin Taijiquan Institute, Enter Tai Chi, Kung Fu & Tai Chi Center w/ Jake Mace, Master Wong, and Practicalmethod are great places to start!

You can also read up to better familiarize yourself with Tai chi:

  • Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on T’ai Chi Ch’uan by Cheng Man Ch’ing
  • Steal My Art: The Life and Times of T’ai Chi Master T.T. Liang by Stuart Alve Olson
  • There Are No Secrets by Professor Cheng Man Ch’ing and His T’ai Chi Chuan

The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart, and Sharp Mind by Peter Wayne, Ph.D., is an excellent resource.

Visit Tai Chi Health for comprehensive guidance on the topic.

Find a Reliable Instructor

Tai chi instructors don’t require a formal license to teach. Still, certifications from the American Tai Chi and Qigong Association ensure their students reap maximum benefits through correct form and knowledge.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

Dress in loose-fitting, non-restrictive clothes that allow for unrestricted movement. Cotton is a good choice as it absorbs sweat, lets your skin breathe, and keeps excessive perspiration at bay. Wear comfortable, thin-soled shoes that provide traction for enhanced stability.

Know When to Practice

It’s believed that you can practice Tai chi whenever you want. However, there are some things to keep in mind. First, never practice when you’re hungry or have a full stomach, as it interferes with your movements. We also advise against this exercise immediately after an infection or illness; your immune system is weak, and you are susceptible to health issues.


Take Home Message

Tai chi can do wonders for your overall health when practiced consistently in the long run. Always warm up before starting your session, and remember to be kind to yourself. While this is a “soft” martial art, it is still quite complex.