Tai Chi: A gentle form of exercise to maintain strength

According to experts, Tai Chi, a form of ancient Chinese martial art, is a low impact exercise which puts minimal stress on muscles and joints. This makes it generally safe for all ages.

Finding it difficult to join a cardiac rehabilitation centre due to rigorous workouts or financial constraints? Take heart, practising Tai Chi – a form of ancient Chinese martial art – may help patients for whom physical exercises can be unpleasant, painful and impossible, researchers suggest.

Tai Chi is characterised by slow, rhythmic and meditative movements, which enables the performer to find peace and calm within the mind and heart. It has many different styles. Each style may subtly emphasize various Tai Chi principles and methods. There are variations within each style. Some styles may focus on health maintenance, while others focus on the martial arts aspect of Tai Chi.
"It might be a good option for people because you can start very slowly and simply and, as theconfidence increases, the pace and movements can be modified to increase intensity," said Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, Assistant Professor at the Brown University, Rhode Island in the US.
"Tai Chi exercises can reach low-to-moderate intensity levels. The emphasis on breathing and relaxation can also help with stress reduction and psychological distress." It puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. In fact, because tai chi is a low impact exercise, it may be especially suitable if you're an older adult who otherwise may not exercise. You may also find tai chi appealing because it's inexpensive and requires no special equipment. You can do it anywhere, including indoors or outside. It can be performed alone or in a group class.
Although Tai Chi is generally safe, women who are pregnant or people with joint problems, back pain, fractures, severe osteoporosis or a hernia should consult their health care provider before trying it. Modification or avoidance of certain postures may be recommended. The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, however, found that Tai Chi was safe, with no adverse events related to the exercise programme.
The research was conducted over physically inactive heart disease patients, both men and women, among whom 58.6 per cent of the total had earlier experienced a heart attack and procedures to open a blocked artery. All the participants had denied cardiac rehabilitation and therefore developed high-risk characteristics at present, including smoking (27.6 per cent), diabetes (48.3 per cent), high cholesterol (75.9 per cent), overweight (35 per cent) and obesity (45 per cent).
The Tai Chi programme did not raise aerobic fitness but led to an increase in the weekly amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity at the same time. The benefits of Tai Chi are generally greatest if you begin before you develop a chronic illness or functional limitations. Here's some advices before you start practicing it:
Consult a Doctor – If you have a limiting musculoskeletal problem or medical condition or if you take medications that can make you dizzy or lightheaded — check with your doctor before starting Tai Chi.
Consider observing and taking a class – taking a class may be the best way to learn tai chi. Most teachers will let you observe the cases first to see if you feel comfortable with the approach and atmosphere. Instruction can be individualised.
Dress comfortably – Choose loose-fitting clothes that don't restrict your range of motion. You can practice barefoot or in lightweight, comfortable, and flexible shoes.
You'll need shoes that won't slip and can provide enough support to help you balance, but have soles thin enough to allow you to feel the ground. Agencies


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