There growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems. In this low-impact, slow-motion exercise, you go without pausing through a series of motions incorporating breathing technique to combine an external exercise with an internal exercise. Tai chi is good for balance, co-ordination, flexibility, muscle strength, cardiovascular health, relaxation and general well- being. As it is a gentle exercise it is accessible to all, it is adaptable to suit all ages and abilities. As a martial art it is characterised by offensive and defensive techniques, through practice one can learn the movements as self defence. While appearing gentle and calm as well as being a perfect way to relax the mind and body, tai chi can defeat a powerful opponent through various movements and techniques. Tai chi is demanding in regard to body strength, balance, co-ordination and flexibility, each of these become more apparent with practice. The mind and breath are connected to each tai chi movement so that strength is maximised in unity.
Nervous system - Tai Chi dispels tension and fatigue, refreshes the mind and lifts the spirit, 'leading the body with the mind'.
Cardiovascular system - Gentle co-ordinated movement can make blood vessels more ' springy', can decrease blood pressure and increase blood flow.
Respiratory system - So ' chi ' can sink to the 'dantian' abdominal breathing intensifies the exercise of the diaphragm expanding lung capacity, also stimulating movement in the bowels enhancing digestion.
Bones & muscle - Keeps the body in good shape. Strong legs, pliability, agile & well-coordinated body - Extending Life.
Tai chi for medical conditions
When combined with standard treatment, tai chi appears to be helpful for several medical conditions. For example:
Arthritis - An hour of tai chi can reduce pain and improve physical functioning more than standard stretching exercises in people with severe knee osteoarthritis. It can improve flexibility and slow the process in patients with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful and debilitating inflammatory form of arthritis that affects the spine.
Low bone density - Tai chi may be a safe and effective way to maintain bone density in postmenopausal women.
Breast cancer - Tai chi has shown potential for improving quality of life and functional capacity (the physical ability to carry out normal daily activities, such as work or exercise) in women suffering from breast cancer or the side effects of breast cancer treatment. Functional capacity, muscular strength, and flexibility improved in women with breast cancer who did 12 weeks of tai chi, while declining in a control group that received only supportive therapy.
Heart disease - A year of tai chi significantly boosts exercise capacity, lowers blood pressure, and improves levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, and C-reactive protein in people at high risk for heart disease.
Parkinson's disease - People with mild to moderately severe Parkinson's disease show improved balance, walking ability, and overall well-being after 20 tai chi sessions.
Sleep problems - Tai chi improves the quality and duration of sleep significantly more than standard sleep education. The study was published in the July 2008 issue of the journal Sleep.
Stroke - In 136 patients who'd had a stroke at least six months earlier, 12 weeks of tai chi improved standing balance more than a general exercise program that entailed breathing, stretching, and mobilising muscles and joints involved in sitting and walking. Findings were published in the January 2009 issue of Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair.