Are You Ready for tai chi?

Group practice of Tai Chi
Group practice of tai chi

Tai chi, or taiji, is a form of Chinese martial arts. It is a popular exercise usually practised for health, although it can also be used in combat. It helps to improve muscular strength, balance and coordination.

Tai chi is characterized by slow-flowing, relaxed but mindful movements, almost like meditation in motion.

In China, people often practise tai chi in parks or open spaces, individually or in groups. In recent years, it has also become popular in the West as more people have become interested in holistic therapy.

Benefits of fall prevention exercises

Tai chi is a mind and body exercise. It is not just about physical movement; the emphasis is more on intention (意). During practice, the intention leads the body, and the mind totally focuses on the actions so that the brain is free from the interference of other distractions. The meditative effect promotes self-awareness and helps enhance the nervous system’s regulatory functions.

Although tai chi can be practised at any age, it probably suits the temperament of middle age or older people more. For seniors, practising tai chi regularly is rewarded with several benefits:

  1. Improve muscular strength and flexibility of the joints. Although a low-impact exercise, the slow movements work on large muscles, accompanied by bending, turning and squatting.
  2. Improve balance and coordination decreases fall risk. According to published studies*, seniors who practised Tai Chi were less likely to fall and sustain injuries than those who did not.
  3. Tai chi effectively improves balance control and flexibility for people with Parkinson’s disease.
  4. Tai chi can prevent osteoporosis by reducing the rate of bone density loss.
  5. It is aerobic exercise. During actions, deep rhythmic abdominal breathing increases lung capacity and blood oxygenation.
  6. It improves blood and lymphatic circulation.
  7. The meditative nature helps to reduce stress and improve mental health and sleep quality.

Brain Health

Tai chi has been shown to positively impact brain health, such as increasing brain volume and slowing the progression of cognitive decline. But a study in this area is quite limited.

Recently, a new research project which aims to determine whether tai chi benefits people with dementia has been announced. The project – The TACIT Trial: TAi ChI for people with dementia, is led by Dr Samuel Nyman at Bournemouth University, UK.

“This is the first trial of tai chi with people with dementia in the UK. It is also the first trial in the world to include assessments to see how tai chi might help people with dementia’s balance and help prevent them from falling,” said Dr Nyman.

Girl practicing Tai Chi
Girl practicing Tai Chi

You can learn tai chi by attending classes offered by qualified instructors. They are usually available in community centres, health clubs and fitness centres. Since no special equipment is required, once you have learned the moves, you can practice anywhere, indoors or outdoors, alone or in a group.

Tai chi is one of recommended fall prevention exercises. But before starting any new exercise programme, it is wise to check with your doctor whether there is any contraindication or particular caution you should take.


* “Tai chi for risk of falls. A meta-analysis.” Rafael Lomas-Vega, Esteban Obrero-Gaitán, Francisco Javier Molina-Ortega, and Rafael del-Pino-Casado. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society; Published Online: July 24, 2017 (DOI: 10.1111/jgs.15008).

[convertkit form=5193450]