Tai Qi has been receiving much attention by the American College of Sports Medicine since 2011 because it’s health effects are becoming much better understood. ACSM classifies Tai Qi as a neuro motor exercise, meaning that it improves your balance, agility, proprioception and posture through the Tai Qi method of movement. Previously it was a little hard to categorise, it has elements of strength training and stretching and cardio too so it really didn’t fit snuggly into any one of these categories.
Take a close look at someone who is really good at Tai Qi and try to copy what they are doing. It is very, very difficult to move with muscle control that precise. That is why the same movements are practiced over and over again, just like polishing a rough rock smooth.
The important thing to understand with Tai Qi is that it works best when its postures and semi-circular movements are applied to everyday tasks. Just learning to move with a Tai Qi widened gait really improves stability and balance, learning this way of moving when you are young will make you a better balanced and confident walker as you age. Watch how people change direction as they practice Tai Qi, you will never trip yourself over moving that way.
Tai Qi is much harder than it looks, it strengthens your thighs and improves your posture. Tai Qi can also leave you with a really peaceful feeling after you have done it.
When I was in Guangzhou I saw elderly women on many occasions out with their swords at dawn in elegant “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” like postures. There was no way I could imagine my similarly aged mother doing the same thing and I would love to be that lithe and coordinated now. yet alone when I am their age.
The curved motion of Tai Qi is the strongest way to move for the least amount of effort, it is about moving perfectly. Tai Qi’s lesser known cousin Qi Gong looks less martial arts like but it is very bit as effective an exercise as Tai Qi is.
Many elderly people become risk averse to exercising after a fall, particularly if they get injured which can cause muscle wastage and worsen osteoporosis. Playing it safe sitting rather than walking will eventually weaken your legs and your pelvic floor, causing incontinence as well immobility. Tai Qi can be practiced at home when your not at class, practice it every day for best results.
The young can benefit greatly from Tai Qi too but it is the middle aged and elderly who need it most. The more upright and sure footed we are the less likely we are to fall. When we start to lose balance and movement control life becomes a much more fearful and restricted place.