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T'ai Chi: Is it for me?

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Friday, June 10, 2011

T'ai Chi: Is it for me?

T'ai Chi is an internal Chinese martial art that is usually practiced both for self defense and for its health benefits.  It is a series of slow, controlled movements, all of which started very traditionally and have branched out and now there are many hybrid forms in the modern world, but the practice was started in East as far back as the 1500's and are based in Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian ideals that health is controlled by two opposing forces: yin and yang.  A new study shows that this can actually help prevent falls in older adults, and give great health benefits.


How does T'ai Chi work?
One form is a slow series of movements that focus on a straight spine, abdominal breathing, and a natural range of motion.  Another form focuses on pushing hands  in a series of movements to be done with a partner for training movement purposes. But, bot forms help to focus the student on their center of gravity, retain their posture, and maintain flexibility in their joints.

How does this prevent falls in the elderly?
In the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a study was performed specifically looking at the benefits in elderly and prevention of falls when practicing T'ai Chi.   It has been hypothesized that T'ai Chi is beneficial for many different conditions, such as osteoarthritis, but it was hard to collect adequate data and the studies always came out inconclusive.  This was a smaller study, but the results were pretty clear that the elderly benefit from T'ai Chi from both a fall prevention perspective and it has improved psychological functioning, along with improved overall general health, even in the presence of other diseases.

This is a pretty important study because falls are a huge problem in the elderly population.  Falls can cause broken bones, bleeding (if on blood thinners), and can lead to early death.  I think this is important for anyone who wants to benefit their health and to work on flexibility and stress relief, but it can be especially important for the older generations, and HCPs should encourage all elderly clients to get involved with T'ai Chi, it can benefit your life in many different facets.

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