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How and Why to Make Tai Chi a Part of Your Fitness Plan

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/31/2011

What are the benefits of tai chi? Here we will talk about tai chi for mind-body fitness.

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    Also referred to as moving meditation, tai chi is a graceful and slow series of relaxed movements that combines flexibility, weight-bearing, aerobic and balance exercise along with meditation and deep breathing. This popular form of mind-body fitness has been becoming even more popular in the United States because it provides a low-impact, safe workout that people can do in a group or alone. Many tai chi practitioners believe that this form of exercise improves physical health, fitness and emotional well-being.

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    Life Energy Flow

    This type of fitness is based on a theory that a person's body, spirit and mind has to be in balance. It is a Chinese philosophy that everything and everyone in the universe has Yin and Yang elements. Yin has water qualities: coolness, stillness and femininity. Yang has fire qualities: activity, brightness and masculinity. Inner forces have to stay in balance to maintain health so that Qi, or life energy, can freely flow in the body.

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    Possible Benefits

    So, what are the benefits of tai chi? Researchers have studied this type of exercise and have found benefits for patients with respiratory problems, arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure and multiple sclerosis. Older people have found improvements in strength, flexibility and balance and a lessened chance of falling. Some studies have shown this form of exercise may also help in reducing anxiety, stress and pain in patients that are healthy. Breathing, movement and meditation are the three main elements of tai chi and they may offer the following benefits:

    This type of exercise is a form of aerobic fitness, therefore, it does cause the heart to work harder and cause oxygen flow in the blood to increase. This type of exercise has proven benefits for lowering cholesterol and benefiting the heart. Breathing exercises help to improve the circulation of oxygen and increases lung capacity.

    This form of exercise uses all major muscle groups and is a type of weight-bearing exercise. Because of this it helps to improve endurance and strength. The movements involved help to enhance agility, flexibility, balance and coordination.

    Tai chi has been shown to have positive effects on psychological health. The meditation involved helps in improving concentration, relieving stress, reducing heart rate and lowering blood pressure.

    Tai chi may also help those who practice regularly to experience an overall feeling of improved wellness, better sleep, a better immune system and better digestion.

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    Resources

    Harvard Medical School. (2011). The Health Benefits of Tai Chi. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from Harvard Medical School: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2009/May/The-health-benefits-of-tai-chi

    Rubin, C. (2010). For Health Benefits, Try Tai Chi. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from US News Health: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/pain/articles/2010/11/26/for-health-benefits-try-tai-chi

    Mayo Clinic. (2009). Tai Chi: Discover the Many Possible Health Benefits. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tai-chi/SA00087