Updated: Sep 22
The history of Tai Chi goes back to the 1500's. It began as a fighting style just like what you might visualize if you think of movies with ninjas and Kung Fu fighters. Eventually it transitioned from a fighting martial art into an "internal" martial art. It became a "movement meditation" or a slow, gentle, meditative approach to movement. In the early 1900's the Chinese government created the 24 Form or Short form, which took 24 movements or pieces out of a much longer format and standardized it "for the masses" (the general population).
The benefits of including Tai Chi into your exercise regimen are numerous. Because of the slow meditative approach to movement, some people question it as an exercise modality since the aerobic component is not high. You should not dismiss it, however, simply because you might not brake a sweat doing it! The intensity of this form of exercise can be increased or decreased depending on the depth of the postures and the duration of practice. It is certainly a low-impact form of exercise which is beneficial to people with existing joint issues and to people who want to avoid joint issues.
Tai Chi is one of the most scientifically studied exercise modalities; probably because it has been practiced by so many people the world over and has lasted for hundreds of years. But allow me to list some benefits provided by the well known Mayo Clinic right here in the U.S.A.
Improved aerobic capacity.
Increased energy and stamina.
Improved flexibility, balance & agility.
Improved muscle strength and definition.
Enhanced quality of sleep.
Enhanced functioning of the immune system.
Reduction in blood pressure.
Reduction in joint pain.
Improved symptoms of congenital heart failure.
Reduction in the risk of falls in older adults.
Decreased stress, anxiety and depression.
Improved overall well-being.
A pretty impressive list, yes? There are hundreds of studies from around the world over the course of many years verifying the list above plus more studies concerning improvements in cognitive functioning in older adults, particularly in the realm of "executive functioning".
Finally, for me personally, Tai Chi has been an important piece of the fitness "puzzle". It is not the only form of exercise I do regularly, but it has definitely helped me in reducing stress and anxiety in these troubled times of Covid and polarizing politics. And for that I am grateful and thankful. Maybe if you give it a try you will add it to your library of helpful habits too!
My approach to Tai Chi with my clients is that if you are curious about possibly learning this ancient art but do not want to go "all-in" and learn all 24 steps as quickly as possible, I can just introduce some moves slowly to you, for a short portion of our training session together. Then if you want to get serious you can pursue dedicated classes at the YMCA or other martial arts schools locally, or take classes on-line.