Tai Chi-- The Mental Benefits

As we mentioned on Monday, the physical benefits of Tai Chi are extensive–helping to improve balance, increase bone density, and speed up recovery from strokes and heart failure.

As a low-impact exercise, Tai Chi requires very little commitment in terms of physical endurance and strength, making it a great choice for seniors looking to stay active.

The health benefits of Tai Chi actually go far beyond physical health. Because it requires so much mental concentration, it’s a great challenge for both the body and the mind.

According to Bill Douglas, Tai Chi instructor, founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, and author of Stalking the Yang Lu-Chan: Finding Your Tai Chi Body, “Tai chi (and qigong) demonstrate how inextricably interwoven the mental and physical body is… Your mood, your emotional states, and your physical states are all beginning to improve at the same time.

Tai Chi, then, can do much more than improve your (or your loved one’s) physical health. Today, we’re going to round off our introduction to Tai Chi by talking about a few of the mental benefits.

Stress Reduction

Stress is a major factor when it comes to aggravating some health conditions. Because Tai Chi promotes deep breathing and awareness of your body, it helps to relax the mind and body and may even ease depression, something that is very difficult to treat among the elderly.

Lack of sleep can also raise our stress levels. A study published in the July 2008 issue of Sleep found that among 112 healthy older adults with modern sleep complaints, those who enrolled in a 16 week program of Tai Chi reported that their quality and duration of sleep improved significantly more than among those who practiced standard sleep education.

A reduction in stress may also lead to making healthier food choices, in turn helping ease weight gain. Douglas notes that ”A lot of our dietary choices are based on our state of stress and anxiety After a stressful day, we’re hardly ever drawn to steamed broccoli. We crave greasy, salty food that helps us forget about the stress of the day.”

Therefore, as a major stress reducer, Tai Chi can improve your aging loved one’s life significantly.

Exercise for the Brain

According to some studies, Tai Chi can also help to improve cognitive performance and memory.

One study found that among people with early dementia or mild cognitive impairment, Tai Chi had positive effects on their cognitive performance and memory.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that Tai Chi helped slow the loss of mobility and cognitive function among early-stage Parkinsons patients. The study also noted that the benefits persisted three months after the trial ended.

Tai Chi can do wonders to improve your health, both mentally and physically. And, as a low-impact exercise, it can be practiced by almost anyone. If you’re looking for fun, engaging ways to exercise with your aging parents, Tai Chi is definitely a good place to start.

If you have any questions or concerns about any of the information here, let us know in the comments below or on Twitter. We’re always happy to help!

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