Tai chi is a form of exercise developed in ancient China that has been practiced for centuries as a therapeutic, healing routine.

Instead of jarring, high-intensity exercises, tai chi focuses on low-impact, slow moving, naturally flowing movements that are done softly and thoughtfully. Movements are often circular and muscles are relaxed during the exercises. Since tai chi is such a gentle flowing exercise, it offers benefits for people at all fitness levels–from young practitioners to older adults to those living with chronic pain.

Harvard Women’s Health Watch calls tai chi, “medication in motion,” for its benefits in treating many health problems. 

In general terms, studies have found that tai chi helps with posture, balance, and overall fitness. Multiple studies suggest that tai chi can help prevent the incidence of falls, especially in older adults.

Tai chi has also been found useful for:

  • Helping with joint pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis
  • Improving quality of sleep
  • Relieving pain associated with chronic low back pain
  • Maintaining bone density with osteopenia, a conditioning proceeding osteoporosis
  • Relieving the joint pain and symptoms related to fibromyalgia
  • Improving balance and motor movements in patients with Parkinson’s disease

While there have been few large-scale studies done on the benefits of tai chi, smaller studies and multiple case studies have shown its effectiveness in helping overall health and quality of life. Tai chi also has the particular benefit of being a relatively safe, inexpensive, and non-invasive option for many to try with pain conditions. Tai chi can be practiced in classes with an instructor, or many can practice from the comfort of their own home, with home exercises found online or with podcasts.

As with all new exercises, talk with your doctor before beginning a new routine. Once cleared, start with a long-term practice (at least 12 weeks) in order to begin to see benefits, as the slow, gentle nature of this practice does take a while to show benefits.

Have you ever practiced tai chi? Did you enjoy it? Did you see benefits from its practice? 

Image by Doug Hay via Flickr

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