If you’re not familiar with tai chi, you might not realize how beneficial it can be for seniors. While it’s true that tai chi has its roots in martial arts, most people who practice it today aren’t looking for a fight. They’re taking advantage of what the discipline has to offer through slow movement and controlled breathing.
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Keep in Mind:
Before starting any new exercise(s), we strongly recommend you follow the advice of the National Institute on Aging and consult your doctor.
What Are Tai Chi Exercises for Seniors?
There are several styles of tai chi. Some call for slow motions and others for fast. Some emphasize tiny movements and others focus on kicking and punching. The Yang style is the most popular; it emphasizes graceful motion and relaxation, which makes it ideal for beginners and for seniors.
The most useful tai chi exercises for seniors are the ones that are gentle, low-impact, self-paced and non-competitive. Sometimes they’re based on more difficult tai chi figures but are modified to require less balance and range of motion. Many are adapted so that they can be done in a chair.
What are the Benefits of Tai Chi Exercises for Seniors?
A big benefit of tai chi comes from the fact that it’s easy and comfortable to do. You don’t have to grit your teeth or psyche yourself up to begin a tai chi routine; you can just ease into it. Tai chi can be done solo or with a group. Just getting started and doing a few movements can relax you, make you feel better and lower your stress level.
But the benefits don’t stop there! Tai chi has also been shown to:
What a great package of health benefits for older adults! All of us want these things regardless of our age.
Best Tai Chi Exercises for Seniors
There are hundreds of tai chi exercises with nearly endless variations. Here are 12 that will give you an introduction to tai chi. In general, these figures should be done smoothly, with attention to breathing and with the body relaxed. Don’t pause between repetitions but let one flow into the next.
Tai Chi Warm Up Exercises for Seniors
Sometimes the hardest part of a workout is getting started. But tai chi is not a workout in the usual sense. These warm-up exercises feel so good and natural they almost beckon you. Once you’ve started, it’s a cinch to keep going and do an entire routine. Tai chi exercises not only feel good when you’re done, they feel good while you’re doing them!
1. Waist Loosening
Here’s an easy one to get started.
If you like, speed it up as you go. As an option, you can exaggerate the movement of the neck and shoulders.
2. Torso Twists
Like Waist Loosening, this is a twisting motion. However, this time you’re going to hold your hips relatively rigid and move your upper body.
3. Leg Warm Up
Here’s another easy one. Don’t worry if these seem too easy; that’s OK with Tai Chi. We’re working the way the body naturally wants to move.
4. Touch the Sky
This is one of many Tai Chi exercises that can be done either standing or in a chair.
Tai Chi Chair Exercises for Seniors
Just about everyone can practice tai chi. You don’t even have to stand up! Here are five routines that can be done either in an armless chair or standing.
5. Broadening the Chest
6. Holding the Ball
You can do this either with or without a ball. Use one about the size of a volleyball, or position your arms as if you’re holding one.
7. Flying Like a Wild Goose
One fun thing about tai chi is the names of some positions.
8. Scooping from the Sea
Tai Chi Balance Exercises for Elderly
All tai chi exercises are balance exercises, but here are four that focus on stabilizing your core as the rest of the body is moving.
9. Dancing with the Rainbow
Windmill to the side only as far as you can go while maintaining good central balance. It’s OK to raise your arms straight up and not windmill at all.
11. Shooting the Bow
12. Penetrating Heaven and Earth
In addition to being a balance exercise, this also helps to stretch the shoulders.
Some of these tai chi exercises don’t seem like much of a workout. You may not sweat and strain during your session. Yet at the end you’re going to feel good. Your body will let you enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from using it the way it wants to be used.
That’s tai chi. It takes the natural movements of the body and formalizes them into exercises that make you do just a little more. It helps you become aware of and improve your balance. With tai chi, you can learn a few moves in a short time and do them without difficulty. You can also spend years exploring all the variations and pushing yourself further.
Tai chi is a great discipline for older adults of all fitness levels. Just remember the basic principles of smooth movement and controlled breathing, and you’ll have discovered a practice that will improve your health, your balance, your well-being and your cognition.
Supporting Scientific Studies
- 1The Effect of Tai Chi on Quality of Life of Older People Living in Long-Term Care and Using Wheelchairs for Mobility: A Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT)
- 2Effects of wheelchair Tai Chi on physical and mental health among elderly with disability
- 3Effects of wheelchair Tai Chi ball exercise on physical and mental health and functional abilities among elderly with physical disability
- 4Group and home-based tai chi in elderly subjects with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial
- 5Physical activity for osteoarthritis management: a randomized controlled clinical trial evaluating hydrotherapy or Tai Chi classes
- 6Intense tai chi exercise training and fall occurrences in older, transitionally frail adults: a randomized, controlled trial
- 7Tai Chi and Low Impact Exercise: Effects on the Physical Functioning and Psychological Well-Being of Older People
- 8The effects of Tai Chi Chuan on physiological function and fear of falling in the less robust elderly: An intervention study for preventing falls
- 9Balance and strength training in older adults: intervention gains and Tai Chi maintenance
- 10Effects of Tai Chi and Western Exercise on Physical and Cognitive Functioning in Healthy Community-Dwelling Older Adults