(Beginner’s Tai Chi) Did you know that Tai chi has been nicknamed the ‘longevity exercise’? Tai chi (an abbreviation of T’ai chi ch’uan) is a traditional form of Chinese martial art practiced often today for it’s benefits on health, including proven benefits to both emotional and physical balance. Even better, over half of Tai chi practitioners are over the age of 50, proving that it’s never too late to start reaping the benefits of enhanced balance and strength that come with regular practice.
Here are some tips and strategies for seniors looking to learn Tai chi:
Start anytime Age should never be an obstacle when beginning to learn Tai chi. Over half of Tai chi practitioners begin after the age of 50! No matter your age, it’s possible to age gracefully and to improve your health through Tai chi.
Take some Tai chi classes Sign up for a Tai chi class or two, learn the art, and meet some new people! Tai chi classes tend to attract individuals with a range of personalities, ages, and characters. Classes are a great place to meet other, younger and older, with similar health and relaxation interests. Visit our Tai chi Locator to find a school near you.
Use Tai chi to help structure your day Some find life after retirement to be satisfying and freeing, while others have trouble adjusting to life without a daily routine. If you fall into the latter category, regular Tai chi practice can help provide structure and routine to your day. Establish regular practice times and be diligent with them!
Don’t forget the 70% rule. The 70% rule applies to all Tai chi practitioners: only do 70% of what you can do. This rule of moderation is especially important to seniors, as our bodies aren’t able to recover as quickly and this provides an extra level of protection from unintentional injuries. Remember, if you have pain in an area, only do 70% of what you can do before you start to feel pain or discomfort. Trying to do more will create stress and tension in your body and may even lead to physical injury. Abiding by the 70% rule will give your body a chance to heal and to regain mobility.
Focus on your legs. Growing older may also bring a growing risk of falling due to balance and coordination issues. Tai chi, especially in conjunction with simple weight-shifting exercises, can help with both balance and coordination.
Medical research has shown that regular Tai chi practice can reduce both seniors’ risk of falling as well as their fear of falling. Focus on energy flow to and from the legs to improve your balance and mobility.
Take breaks or sit down. If you’re feeling a bit dizzy or unsteady, don’t try to push through. Take a short break before continuing. After a pause, try sitting down and continuing through the form. Or, simply excuse yourself from the rest of the class. Don’t feel bothered or self-conscious about this. Tai chi is not about being judged; it’s about bettering one’s self, which requires listening to your body.
Set reasonable goals. Don’t overreach and try to do too much too soon. Find a pace for learning new moves which increases your knowledge, but is comfortable to you to avoid both frustration and injury. The “slow and steady” approach always wins the Tai chi race.
Tai Chi for life. Boredom and isolation can be key factors triggering depression in the elderly, but they can be managed. Tai chi can help with both, along with offering clear physical health benefits.