Tai Chi for Older Adults: 11 Benefits of This Ancient Exercise

a group of older adults performing a tai chi routine in the sunny park

If you’re an older adult looking for a low-impact exercise to improve your health, Tai Chi may be the perfect choice for you.

 

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that has been practiced for centuries.

 

Even though it’s slow and gentle, tai chi’s benefits for older adults are numerous. And they extend beyond just physical health.

 

Here are 11 proven benefits of tai chi for older adults to encourage you to give it a try.

 

#1 Decreases Stress & Anxiety

One of the most common benefits of Tai Chi that people experience is a decrease in stress and anxiety.

 

Tai Chi is a form of moving meditation, which means it can be very helpful in calming both the mind and the body. As a mind-body technique that incorporates slow, deliberate movements and deep breathing, Tai Chi can help to reduce stress hormones in the body and promote a sense of well-being.

 

as a form of moving meditation, tai chi is very effective for relieving stress and anxiety

 

In addition, Tai Chi teaches you how to focus your attention on the present moment which, in turn, lowers your stress response (and this is just one of the many benefits of mindfulness).

 

#2 Brightens Your Mood

And the mental health benefits of tai chi for older adults don’t stop there. It also has the ability to improve your mood and outlook on life.

 

While the underlying mechanism of tai chi remains a mystery, several studies have shown that it can improve mood and alleviate depressive symptoms

 

So if you’re feeling a little down, tai chi may be just what the doctor ordered.

 

#3 Enhances Sleep Quality

We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for your health and well-being, but sometimes it can be hard to achieve. If you’re looking for a way to improve your sleep quality, tai chi has been shown to improve sleep in seniors, and the benefits go beyond just getting more restful sleep

 

A study on tai chi’s effects on sleep in older adults with insomnia found that it improved sleep efficiency, reduced wake time after sleep onset, and decreased the number of awakenings.

 

If you’re dealing with sleeping problems, consider giving tai chi a try – it just might be the cure you’re looking for.

 

#4 Strengthens Your Immune System

Tai Chi also bolsters your immune system. Older adults are at an increased risk for developing infections and other health problems. Unfortunately, the immune system weakens with age.

 

For example, you probably know that the covid vaccine may be less effective for older adults. The reason is that the vaccine works by training your immune system to recognize and fight the virus.

 

But as you age, your immune response isn’t as robust.

 

An interesting study found that tai chi is so effective in boosting the immunity of older adults, that it even enhances the body’s immune response to vaccines. In other words, tai chi not only helps you fight off infections, but it also may help make vaccines more effective for older adults.

 

While more research is needed, this is an exciting finding (especially given our global pandemic situation).

#5 Lowers Your Blood Pressure

One of the most impressive benefits of Tai Chi for older adults is its ability to lower blood pressure.

 

Studies have shown that just 12 weeks of Tai Chi leads to a significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. This is likely due to benefit #1, the fact that Tai Chi helps to reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can contribute to high blood pressure.

 

tai chi lowers systolic and disatolic blood pressure

 

But recent research suggests tai chi could also prevent or minimize the risks of developing high blood pressure directly. So keep your heart in mind as you age and add tai chi to your routine.

 

#6 Improves Aerobic Capacity

While tai chi is gentle and light, you shouldn’t underestimate its ability to give you a workout.

 

Several studies have shown that tai chi can improve aerobic capacity, which is the amount of oxygen your body can use when you’re working out.

 

While it’s not as exerting as running or cycling, it’s a great option for people who can’t do those activities because of joint pain or other issues.

 

And it’s a lot more fun than being on a treadmill.

#7 Boosts Cognition

If you’re like most people, you probably associate tai chi with gentle stretching and relaxation. But did you know that this centuries-old practice also has powerful cognitive benefits?

 

In fact, recent research looked at the results of 19 studies that examined how tai chi benefits the cognitive functioning of older adults. The biggest improvements were seen in:

  • Global cognitive function
  • Executive function
  • Memory
  • Verbal fluency

 

Not to mention the mental clarity you’ll immediately feel after a good tai chi routine.

 

#8 Improves Flexibility, Balance & Agility

While tai chi is often slow and gentle, it can also be dynamic and challenging. The movements help to improve flexibility, balance and agility.

 

Researchers reviewed seven different studies on the improvement of balance control ability and flexibility in older adults. And they found significant improvements in fitness tests.

 

tai chi improves flexibility, balance, and agility

 

Don’t just take our word for it. Why not challenge yourself this season? 

 

Use these fitness tests to determine how fit you should be, engage in a regular tai chi routine, and test yourself again after three months. You might be surprised by the results.

#9 Defines & Strengthens Your Muscles

One of the benefits of Tai Chi that is especially beneficial for older adults is that it helps to define and strengthen your muscles.

 

Because Tai Chi is a low-impact form of exercise, it is ideal for those who may not be able to handle more strenuous activities. And the slow, controlled movements can help you target and isolate specific muscle groups and improve your muscle tone.

 

But it works best when combined with resistance training. So if you want to really see some results, add some light weights to your routine.

 

#10 Reduces Risks of Falls

Naturally, the more strength, balance, and flexibility you have, the less likely you are to fall.

 

In fact, tai chi is so effective in reducing falls, the CDC has listed it as an evidence-based community program to help prevent falls.

 

tai chi is an evidence based fall prevention program

 

And if you’re looking for other fall prevention exercises, be sure to check these 9 out.

 

#11 Relieves Pain

Tai chi has been shown to be an effective form of pain relief for older adults, particularly those suffering from conditions like osteoarthritis.

 

The Journal of Rheumatology published a study that followed a group of women with osteoarthritis who did Tai Chi for 12 weeks. They experienced 30% less pain and 30% improved their ability to carry out daily activities.

 

What’s more, tai chi has also been found to be effective in relieving other types of chronic pain, such as back pain and neck pain.

 

So if you’re an older adult dealing with nagging pain, tai chi could be the solution you’ve been waiting for.

 

Holistic Exercise

Tai Chi is a holistic form of exercise that nourishes your mind, body and spirit.

 

We encourage you to try and enjoy the 11 benefits of tai chi for older adults:

 

  • #1 Decreases Stress & Anxiety — meditate in motion and bask in the feeling of mindfulness and calm
  • #2 Brightens Your Mood — elevate your spirits through some light exercise
  • #3 Enhances Sleep Quality — improve your sleep length and quality with a tai chi routine
  • #4 Strengthens Your Immune System — fight off infections and diseases with this martial art
  • #5 Lowers Your Blood Pressure — protect your heart and even prevent high blood pressure
  • #6 Improves Aerobic Capacity — these gentle movements are powerful enough to improve your aerobic capacity
  • #7 Boosts Cognition — keep your mind sharp for years to come
  • #8 Improves Flexibility, Balance & Agility — tai chi will keep you on your toes (sometimes even literally)
  • #9 Defines & Strengthens Your Muscles — especially if you combine it with resistance training
  • #10 Reduces Risks of Falls — as a proven exercise reduction program, it’s extremely effective in preventing falls
  • #11 Relieves Pain — research shows it helps with chronic pain, including arthritis 

 

We hope you enjoyed reading about the benefits of tai chi for older adults and that you consider giving it a try.

 

It’s never too late to start reaping the rewards of this ancient exercise. And, who knows, you may even find yourself hooked like we are.