Tai chi, also called tai chi chuan, is a combination of deep breathing and relaxation through flowing movements.
Originally developed as a martial art in 13th-century China, tai chi is now practised around the world as a health-promoting exercise.
What are the health benefits of tai chi?
While there’s scope for more rigorous research on tai chi’s health benefits, studies have shown that it can help people aged 65 and over to reduce stress, improve posture, balance and general mobility, and increase muscle strength in the legs.
Am I too old for tai chi?
No, tai chi is commonly performed as a low-impact exercise, which means it won’t put much pressure on your bones and joints. Most people should be able to do it.
Is tai chi suitable for me?
Get advice from your GP before starting tai chi if you have any health concerns or an existing health condition. You may need to take certain precautions if you’re pregnant, have a hernia, back pain or severe osteoporosis.
Don’t I need to be fit to do tai chi?
No, tai chi is for everyone. It is ideal for inactive older people wanting to raise their activity levels gently and gradually. Also, many of the tai chi movements can be adapted to people with a disability, including wheelchair users.
Can I injure myself doing tai chi?
Tai chi is essentially a gentle activity that is unlikely to cause injury if done correctly. The exercises involve lots of flowing, easy movements that don’t stress the joints or muscles.
Tips on getting started
It’s a good idea to watch a class or attend a free taster session before signing up for a course. If you have a medical condition or any health concerns, or haven’t exercised for a long time, speak to your GP before you start tai chi.
Are there different styles of tai chi?
Yes, such as yang, chen and wu. Some teachers often practise a combination of styles. The main differences between the different tai chi styles are in the speed of movement and the way the body holds the postures.
What’s the basic technique?
Tai chi is characterised by its slow, graceful, continuous movements that are gentle on the joints and muscles. Done correctly, you’ll find that the tai chi poses flow smoothly from one into another. Many movements are completed with bent knees in a squat-like position.