The old saying is true - bodies in motion stay in motion. As the birthdays pile up, you may find yourself looking for activities that move at a slower pace. Tai Chi is a popular choice for seniors who want to stay flexible, strong, balanced and mindful. To better understand the benefits of low-impact activities, we spoke with Christopher Kowalski, a health and wellness coordinator at Banner Health.
Low-impact sports make a big difference
“People of all ages rely on muscle endurance, muscle strength and balance to be healthy and strong,” said Kowalski. “As you get older, these attributes require a little more attention.” You may not feel comfortable jumping into the rough-and-tumble sports of your youth, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be active. Tai Chi is a great option for seniors because of how safe and approachable the movement can be.
Tai Chi was first developed as a form of self-defense and has since evolved into a unique form of exercise, sometimes referred to as “meditation in motion.” In Tai Chi, you never stop moving from one pose to another. Each motion is slow and methodical, the constant movement helps to improve your balance and concentration. “Fall risk can be a real danger for seniors,” warned Kowalski. “Tai Chi and similar activities will help to decrease this risk by improving your coordination and strength.” In every pose and transition, you will be challenged to maintain perfect form and control.
Benefits of Tai Chi
Tai Chi’s benefits are greatly lauded and can be a bit mysterious for those who haven’t tried it. Because of the emphasis on breathing, concentration and meditation, many people report an improved mood, greater sense of self and even better sleep. Just like meditation, Tai Chi could be a life-changer for your emotional wellbeing. The activity also comes with a powerful list of physical benefits:
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved flexibility
- Greater muscle strength
- Better balance
- Improved posture
- Bone health and joint mobility
- Elevated muscle endurance
- Social opportunities
Let’s get moving
Although Tai Chi is very popular in some areas of the world, you may not have been exposed to it in your lifetime. There are many ways that you can try it out to see if it is for you. Kowalski recommended finding a YouTube channel and following along in your living room. He also mentioned that many gyms and community centers offer in-person group classes where you can learn the ropes and meet people.
If Tai Chi just isn’t for you, there are lots of ways that you can enjoy similar benefits. Try these similar low-impact activities.
- Yoga – For those who are interested in flexibility and improving joint mobility, yoga can be a great addition or replacement for Tai Chi. Although yoga isn’t as based in movement, there are a lot of similarities in balance and mental focus.
- Meditation – Proper Tai Chi can help you to center your thoughts around your movement. Meditation alone doesn’t benefit your physical strength and flexibility in the same way Tai Chi does, but it has been shown to improve physical wellbeing by lowering blood pressure and minimizing the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
- Dance – Certain styles of dance reflect the movements of Tai Chi and can help improve your strength, endurance and balance. Dance has the advantage of elevating your heart rate while improving your coordination. In addition, many people express improved mood during and after dance.
Looking for more ways to stay active with low-impact movement? Check out these helpful articles written with Banner Health experts.