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If you’re the type of person that gravity gets the best of too often and fear that it will only get worse as you get older, tai chi may be the answer for you.
A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed that tai chi, when compared to lower extremity training, was significantly more effective in increasing stability in a group of over-60 year olds who had experienced a fall. The results suggest that practising tai chi can reduce the chance of an injury-causing fall for older people by 50%. As an added bonus, the study showed that cognitive function improved to a greater extent in the trial group practicing tai chi. It seems strange to teach people who have trouble mastering the basics of staying upright a defensive martial art but tai chi practitioners spend a lot of time in squat like poses building flexibility and stability in the muscles of the legs and core. Tai chi is a slow moving and low impact martial art so it is gentle on the limbs and almost seems perfectly designed for the elderly.
Peter M. Wayne from Harvard Medical School says that there is,
“a growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for tai chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age,”
However tai chi benefits people of all ages not only because it increases stability and flexibility but because it helps soothe the mind. It places great emphasis on breathing in a meditative manner to movement. Mindful breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and lowers the heart rate and increases glandular and intestinal activity all of which are good for you!
Now you can have cups of tea and go to tai chi with your granny!
Photograph: Mariann Seriff, Graves Fowler Creative. Courtesy of the American National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.