Tai Chi – A Great Form of Exercise for Aging Adults
We all know it’s important to stay active. But it can be hard to find exercises that work with the physical challenges that often come with age. Fortunately, there is an exercise option that works well for aging adults – Tai Chi.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, Tai Chi was originally a type of martial arts. Over time Tai Chi has come to be recognized for its many health benefits, especially for aging adults. It is a slow and calming form of exercise that relaxes the mind, proving that “no pain, no gain” isn’t always the case.
Because Tai Chi is comprised of fluid movements there is minimal strain on joints and the movements can be adapted for each person’s strengths and weaknesses. Tai Chi has been found to be beneficial for a wide variety of conditions including chronic pain, mental health, balance and fibromyalgia, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Kathy Ramaekers, an OTR/L and CHT at Hillcrest Physical Therapy who is also board certified in gerontology, says that one of the reasons she recommends Tai Chi to so many of her clients is because it can be adaptable for each client and their unique needs.
“Because we specialize in providing therapy to the older adult, we see many clients who are experiencing a variety of physical symptoms,” Ramaekers said. “We have found that Tai Chi, in addition to or after their therapy program, can assist with almost all of those challenges because it works from their hands down to their toes.”
Tai Chi also helps to decrease the risk of falls, which is one of the biggest risks for hospitalization among aging adults. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space (proprioception) declines with age. Tai Chi trains the mind to pay more attention and be more aware, helping to reduce falls further. Ramaekers explained that in her 28 years of experience she has noticed that a lot of falls happen because of a lack of attentiveness to one’s situation and environment.
“In our culture we’re so used to go, go, go… Tai Chi is a way to learn to just be where you are at that particular moment and to be mindful of what you’re doing,” Ramaekers explained. “It [Tai Chi] really helps you to understand where your body is in space, which hugely decreases the risk of falling because you know how far you can move before your balance becomes unstable.”
Because it is adaptable, easy on joints, relaxing, works the whole body and helps reduce the risk of falling, Tai Chi is one of the best options for the aging adult to stay active.
To find out if Tai Chi is a good fit for you or to explore other therapy options to help you age well, make an appointment with Hillcrest Physical Therapy by calling (402) 682-4210 or visit hillcresthealth.com for more information.
*Information provided in Hillcrest’s Therapy Thoughts newsletter and online blog posts is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace advice, treatment or a diagnosis from a certified medical professional. Please consult your health care provider with any health related issues.