Taking on Tai Chi
Finding a form of exercise that helps to centre the mind and the body can seem difficult, especially when sports like Cross Fit and High Intensity Interval Training have become so popular in recent years – until you consider Tai Chi.
While it probably doesn’t have as big of a cult following as other exercise forms, Tai Chi’s mental and physical benefits shouldn’t be disregarded as you look for ways to remain active in your later years.
Slow and steady
In simple terms, Tai Chi is best described as a Chinese meditation practice that combines deep breathing and slow, fluid movements to create a gentle form of exercise that’s been practiced for over 2,000 years. You might have heard more about it in recent years because it’s become more well known in Western culture since studies showed that practicing Tai Chi could help improve symptoms for people with arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. Its benefits also range from pain relief and stress reduction to lowered blood pressure and an improved feeling of overall wellbeing.
Although you might not get a six-pack as a result of Tai Chi, it can strengthen muscles and improve arterial flexibility. This is especially important as we get older because more flexible arteries are better for overall cardiovascular health.
A gentle approach
While there are plenty of health-related reasons why Tai Chi appeals to those of us who might need a lower-impact form of exercise as our muscles and joints start to feel a little worse for wear, there are also some very basic ways Tai Chi can appeal. Not only is Tai Chi accessible to those of all ages and fitness ranges – unlike showing up to a spin class for the first time, intimidated by the army of Lycra-clad regulars – but it can also be performed without any special equipment, indoors or outdoors, alone or in groups. So, whether you’re the kind of person who likes to use fitness as a chance for socialising with friends or you prefer to exercise alone in the comfort of your home, it’ll suit you either way.
Tai Chi is often referred to as ‘meditation in motion’ because of the way it combines the awareness of the body, mindfulness, visualisation and relaxation. These might be things you take for granted on a day-to-day basis, or maybe they are things you’ve actually never managed to master.
If you’re not the kind of person who feels like they can find the time – or wants to put aside the time – to sit and meditate, why not use Tai Chi as a way to combine both mindfulness and exercise into one? For many of us who might spend the day stuck in our heads at an office or dipping between different apps, tabs and screens, Tai Chi is an opportunity to feel mentally and physically grounded.
This idea of mindfulness shouldn’t be confused with switching off your brain entirely, it’s actually going to help increase your focus, reduce stress and boost cognitive skills. These are three things that get increasingly valuable as significant changes to our life, like entering retirement, occur.
The most important thing to remember about taking on Tai Chi is the fact that the emphasis is on internal development fuelling the external – so you might not see bulging biceps and triceps, but you’ll feel like you can take on the world!
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