Tai chi nowadays is being practiced as a stress buster or exercise rather than as a form of fighting. In fact, there is a growing interest in the scientific community about how tai chi can help in geriatric health care, particularly in maintaining mobility, agility, and strength.
Many health care institutions, including Harvard Medical School’s Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Program, describe tai chi’s circular and low impact motions as a complimentary form of preventive or rehabilitation medicine that is suitable for all kinds of people, including those recovering from surgery, the elderly, and the wheelchair-bound. Several researchers have shown that tai chi can improve the following:
· Muscle strength. A 2006 Stanford University research conducted on a group of men and women whose average age was 66 and who had below average fitness levels showed a marked improvement in the ability to stand up within a 30-second period and do arm curls after only 36 tai chi classes.
· Flexibility. The same 2006 Stanford study reported increased upper and lower body flexibility and strength as a result of taking the tai chi classes over a period of 12 weeks.
· Balance. Tai Chi increases a person’s awareness or ability to sense his or her position in space, which decreases as one ages. Tai chi’s fluid movements recondition the sensory neurons responsible for balance as well as the stretch receptors in muscles and ligaments, reducing the risk of falls that usually lead to fractures.
· Arthritis. Family physician and tai chi practitioner Dr. Paul Lam developed a program that specifically targets pain associated with arthritis. This program is based on the Sun style, which is touted as the “healing” style of the martial art. The Sun style was also chosen because of its ability to heighten relaxation, mobility, and balance. Aside from reducing pain and stiffness, arthritis sufferers who practiced tai chi had an increased ability to perform daily tasks like getting up a chair or climbing stairs.