Gentle Miracle: Tai Chi Benefits for Seniors Include Better Balance, Mobility, and Sleep

Gentle Miracle: Tai Chi Benefits for Seniors Include Better Balance, Mobility, and SleepTai chi is a Chinese phrase that means extreme opposites. In English, the best word to conceptualize its meaning is simply balance. One can achieve tai chi in any action, thought, or profession in life. It is a mindset, not necessarily a martial art. The slow, precise movements of tai chi are designed to establish harmony, understanding, and awareness between the mind, body, and environment. However, the tai chi benefits for seniors do not end there. This article will discuss the research that has demonstrated how beneficial this practice is to mobility, balance, arthritis, and psychology. 

Tai chi reduces falls 55%

For seniors who live alone or who have health problems such as weak joints or osteoporosis, a single fall could be fatal. In 2005, the Oregon Research Institute studied over 250 physically inactive adults between 70 and 92 years of age. These seniors were asked to practice tai chi for 40 to 60 minutes; 3 days per week. During the study, seniors who did not practice tai chi experienced 35 more falls than seniors in the tai chi group.[1] Even though they were otherwise physically inactive, the seniors who practiced tai chi were 55% less likely to fall. Tai chi helps seniors acquire a mental sense of how the body operates as a structural unit, which can also benefit mobility.

Tai chi reduces arthritis symptoms 20%

Another study suggests that the physical awareness gained by tai chi can also improve rheumatoid arthritis. During a 12-week study at Tufts Medical Center in 2008, seniors who practiced tai chi experienced a 20% improvement in rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.[2] At the end of the 12 weeks, seniors who did not practice tai chi showed no improvement at all. Those in the tai chi group also showed increased functional capacity, and a reduced susceptibility to depression.

Seniors practicing tai chi fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer

Many people of all age groups currently experience insomnia, and many seniors have sleeping difficulties due to pain. Tai chi has been demonstrated to be a natural remedy for this, without any of the dangerous side effects of sleeping pills or pain medications. A 2004 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society measured the sleeping patterns of nearly 200 adults between 60 and 92 years old. The group trained to do tai chi fell asleep 18 minutes earlier than the untrained group.[3] The tai chi group also slept 48 minutes longer per night. Groups doing traditional exercise instead of tai chi did not experience this benefit in sleep quality. All that is necessary is 40 to 60 minutes, three times per week using low- to moderate-intensity tai chi.

Practice tai chi where you are comfortable

You can gain the benefits of a tai chi routine whether you prefer to exercise in a group or alone. Most tai chi sessions are held in groups and led by instructors, but the movements are safe and easy enough to be practiced alone in private. If you prefer to practice in the privacy of your home, simply search the Internet for “tai chi basics” to find plenty of free video lessons.

The typical sequence consists of 24 movements, but even the most basic ones will help confer tai chi benefits for seniors. Knowing the entire sequence from beginning to end is not necessary. Practice what is within your capability and seek to expand it over time. Remember that tai chi should never be painful, difficult, or physically taxing when done properly. Do it in a quiet setting, focusing on the control of your body, and on the position of your body in the environment.

Share your experience

Have you tried tai chi or other natural remedies to increase your mobility and improve your sleep? What remedies worked best for you? How did your symptoms improve? Tell us your experience in the comments section below. Also be sure to visit our Facebook page and follow us on Linked In.

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UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

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  • I also practice Tai Chi Chuan, i’ve been practicing Tai Chi Chuan for 10 years, I practice the Yang style short form, emphasis on the martial art, but keep the movements slow, our teacher has modified the form from traditional to practical and we also practice Qi Gong in the beginning to warm up and stretch before Tai Chi. It’s remarkable how can get a good workout by moving slow and breathing naturally, after time you can feel the Chi, I feel Tai Chi Chuan is a way of life, if practiced properly, I think more people should look in Tai Chi especially the benefits it has and try it, but one must have patience it’s something one can’t be an expert in a few months, Tai Chi Chuan is no quick fix, it takes time and practice, I wish Tai Chi Chuan could be taught in schools from elementary thru high school.

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