October 30, 2013 | Posted in:Clinical Studies

(University of Maryland Medical Center) – Tai chi has 3 major components — movement, meditation, and deep breathing.

  • Movement — All of the major muscle groups and joints are needed for the slow, gentle movements in tai chi. Tai chi improves balance, agility, strength, flexibility, stamina, muscle tone, and coordination. This low impact, weight bearing exercise strengthens bones and can slow bone loss, thus preventing the development of osteoporosis.
  • Meditation — Research shows that meditation soothes the mind, enhances concentration, reduces anxiety, and lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Deep breathing — Exhaling stale air and toxins from the lungs while inhaling a plentitude of fresh air increases lung capacity, stretches the muscles involved in breathing, and releases tension. It also enhances blood circulation to the brain, which boosts mental alertness. At the same time, the practice supplies the entire body with fresh oxygen and nutrients.

Tai chi improves overall fitness, coordination, and agility. People who practice tai chi on a regular basis tend to have good posture, flexibility, and range of motion, are more mentally alert, and sleep more soundly at night.

Tai chi is both a preventive and complementary therapy for a wide range of conditions. Specifically, it is beneficial for chronic pain, gout, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, headaches, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and sleep disorders. Tai chi is also beneficial for the immune system and the central nervous system, which makes it especially good for people with a chronic illness, anxiety, viral infections, depression, or any stress related conditions. The deep breathing of tai chi regulates the respiratory system, helping to treat respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. It also stimulates the abdomen, which aids digestion and helps relieve constipation and gastrointestinal conditions. Many clinical studies indicate that elderly people who practice tai chi have better hand eye coordination, and are much less prone to falls, both serious health risks to people in that age group.

Are there conditions that should not be treated with tai chi?

Tai chi is safe for everyone, regardless of age or athletic ability, and can be modified for most health problems. People with limited mobility — even those in wheelchairs — can learn and successfully use tai chi. In one study of 256 sedentary adults 70 – 92 years of age, tai chi decreased the number of falls and the fear of falling compared to stretching. Those who practiced tai chi also had improved functional balance and physical performance after 6 months. However, it is not meant to replace medical care for a serious condition. Talk to your doctor and your instructor about any health problems or recent injuries you may have, or if you are pregnant.

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