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The Health Benefits of Tai Chi

If you’ve ever watched or practiced tai chi, you know it’s an art form that moves at a slow pace. While not necessarily aerobic in nature, research shows this ancient Chinese practice does more good for your health than you may think.

“I have students who have been taking tai chi for 15 plus years because they see the positive changes,” says Cooper Fitness Center Martial Arts Pro Mike Proctor. Proctor has been an instructor for more than 40 years and explains how tai chi can provide physical and mental benefits.

Physical Benefits

The flowing movements of tai chi can help strengthen muscles and joints and improve flexibility and balance. While tai chi can benefit athletes of all ages, Proctor says it can have a greater impact on older individuals.

“As you age, your balance becomes compromised which can lead to falls,” explains Proctor. “Tai chi helps you learn how to use your body in a way that improves stability, resulting in less falls.”

Tai chi focuses on a person’s gait, or the way they walk. In class, Proctor says students practice patterns to get their bodies moving in all directions. The art form also works every muscle and joint in the body.

Proctor says in most daily activities, such we walking, we use momentum to complete the task. In tai chi, the goal is to resist the momentum and gravity by performing slower movements over a longer period of time.

“It’s a lot like swimming,” says Proctor. “When you swim, the water provides resistance, which is why it’s so challenging. In tai chi, you provide your own resistance through slow movements.”

Tai chi is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it a great form of exercise for all ages and fitness levels.

Mental Benefits

Tai chi was once referred to as “meditation in motion,” as the series of movements are meant to be performed in a slow and graceful manner. While beautiful to watch, it can also be challenging for the mind.

“The art form works your brain because you have to remember what comes next,” says Proctor.

While your feet are doing one thing and moving one way, Proctor says your hands and torso may be moving a different way. He stresses patience, focus and obedience when practicing tai chi, which in turn can help manage stress.

“Tai chi can be complicated to the point that while you’re doing it, you’re not thinking about anything else,” says Proctor. “You’re so in the moment, it takes you away from thinking about what you did before class or the things you need to do after it.”

Proctor says tai chi is also an art form you can practice the rest of your life.

“We perform tai chi in a group atmosphere, but that doesn’t have to be the case,” says Proctor. “The goal is to teach you the skills you need so you can do it whenever and wherever you want.”

Are you interested in giving tai chi a try? Cooper Fitness Center offers three tai chi classes every week. Group ex classes are included in the fitness center membership and members can attend an unlimited amount of classes every week. View the schedule or call 972.233.4832 for more information.





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