The Benefits of Tai Chi

people doing tai chiBy Claire Rutenbeck, BSN, RN

Looking for a low-impact, relaxing form of exercise? Tai Chi offers a variety of health benefits for seniors. 

Tai Chi can be enjoyed in the privacy of your own home or at classes offered in the community.  Through regular practice, Tai Chi can help boost your overall health and wellness by:

  • Improving balance and reducing risk of falling
  • Improving the ability to manage stress
  • Improving sleep
  • Lowering blood pressure and improving cardiovascular fitness
  • Relieving chronic pain
  • Increasing energy endurance and agility

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi has been practiced around the world for thousands of years.  It began as a martial art, but today it is done mostly for health. Tai Chi includes meditative, balanced exercises that focus on the movement of Qi, or energy. 

Although it is not a magic cure-all, the rewards of Tai Chi outweigh the risks associated with being sedentary. Sometimes called “meditation in motion,” Tai Chi combines low-intensity exercise with a complex series of learned movements that can be done safely by anyone.  Tai Chi is especially beneficial to those with limited flexibility, who experience pain when they move or who feel they cannot exercise.

Tai Chi is adaptable and safe for all ages and stages of health. Usually practiced while standing, Tai Chi can be adapted to be done while lying down or seated. It can be practiced when you are feeling well or when you are sick because, unlike aerobic exercise, Tai Chi is about the flow of energy and inner balance.

Tai Chi for Arthritis

Tai Chi can help people suffering from arthritis. The slow, gentle range of motion and flowing movements in a Tai Chi for Arthritis program are modified to protect joints. As the movements of Tai Chi become natural, balance is improved and thus reduces the likelihood of falling.  During Tai Chi practice, focusing on movement and breathing will help create a state of relaxation.  Over time, relaxation will last far longer than the time it takes to practice because mind and body will be in sync.

Next Steps

Before you get started, talk to your primary health care provider. Discuss any accommodations you might need to ensure that your Tai Chi practice is safe. Whether you want to sample Tai Chi at home or join a class, it is important to feel confident about what you can do as well as what modifications you might initially need. 

You can get started with as little as 15 minutes a day.  Be patient, allow yourself time to get comfortable with your practice and remember that it takes time to learn a new form of exercise and to have it become a habit. Once you find your rhythm, you will enjoy the incredible health and wellness rewards of Tai Chi.   

Tai Chi classes are offered throughout the Burlington area.  For more information, call Cindy Sarault at CVAA at 802-865-0360, ext. 1028.

Claire Rutenbeck, BSN, RN, Elder Care Services, is a Wellness Coordinator for Burlington Housing Authority and a “Tai Chi for Arthritis” instructor.