Any type of fall can be scary, especially when you’re a senior. But according to a recent study, the ancient Chinese practise of tai chi can help prevent falls in seniors by 43 percent within the first year. It can also prevent falls that lead to injury by 50 percent in only the first few months of practise.
Tai chi is a gentle meditative exercise originating from Chinese martial arts. It focuses on flowing arm movements, balance and breathing. Not only is it a great way to stay in shape, it’s even better for seniors because of its low physical intensity.
“It’s as good as physical therapy in terms of improving balance and how your body knows where your joints are in space,” said Joe Feuerstein, director of Integrative Medicine at Stamford Hospital. “Plus, it allows you to quiet and calm your mind. Physical therapy doesn’t usually have that effect.”
In addition to decreasing the risk of falling, research shows that tai chi is effective for balance in people with Parkinson’s disease. Regular practice targets the physical components needed to stay upright such as flexibility, leg strength and reflexes – all of which tend to decline with age.
Tips for Seniors Learning Tai Chi
An important thing to note when learning tai chi is that you can start anytime, no matter what age you are or your level of physical activity. In fact, over half of the people who practice tai chi are over the age of 50. If you’re thinking of introducing your loved one to tai chi or starting it yourself, here are some tips to get you started.
Don’t push your body: Only extend your body, bend and push yourself to 70 percent of what you’re capable of. If you start to feel pain and discomfort, you’re pushing it too hard and could potentially get injured.
Take breaks and sit: If you feel dizzy or unsteady, the worst thing you can do is push through. Take a few minutes to rest until you’re comfortable to start again.
Set realistic goals: There are several elements to tai chi that have taken some pros years to perfect. Don’t try to learn everything all at once and take your time to retain a few moves at a time, even if it takes you months to learn.
Relax: One of the best things you can do when learning tai chi is to relax and embrace the practice. Don’t worry about doing it perfectly and focus on how it makes you feel.
Maintaining good physical health and staying active is important at any age. Do you think tai chi is an activity that would benefit a loved one in your life? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!