In the fitness world, there is a wide variety of types of exercise to choose from. The trouble is, not everyone can take part in more challenging exercise programs. If you are older or physically unable to take part in a high impact fitness routine, you might be thinking about trying tai chi. Is it low impact? We researched the in and outs of tai chi to help you determine if it is right for you!
Tai Chi is considered to be a low impact form of exercise. It incorporates breathing techniques, meditation, and slow, gentle movements to reduce stress and improve flexibility and overall physical well-being.
If you think this might be for you, then keep reading as we explore the ancient art of tai chi, its health benefits, what it entails, and how to perform it comfortably.
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What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi, or tai chi chuan, is a traditional form of martial art that originated in ancient China. It incorporates movements that flow from one to another calmly and serenely. It is described as "meditation in motion." There are many different styles, emphasizing something different from the others, but all styles combine slow movements, stretching, and breathing techniques.
Practicing tai chi is thought to promote encourage the flow of qi, which is the energy that flows through the body, as well as to enhance the balance of yin and yang, which keep the universe in harmony.
Tai Chi is very low-impact and does not put much stress on muscles and joints, so it can be an excellent option for older adults that might not be able to exercise otherwise, but it is appropriate for almost all age groups and fitness levels.
Styles of Tai Chi
Although there are technically five styles of tai chi, each kind incorporates the graceful movements and emphasis on breathing and balance that make this form of exercise low-impact.
- Yang: Best of beginners and focuses on exaggerated slow movements and relaxation in order to improve flexibility.
- Wu: Focuses on very slow micromovements, moving backwards and forwards on the feet, instead of remaining centered.
- Chen: Better for more experienced practitioners, Chen uses explosive movements, jumps, and kicks.
- Sun: Not as physically challenging as Chen, but still more advanced. It incorporates a lot of footwork combined with fluid, dancelike movements.
- Hao: Focus on internal strength (qi) and accuracy of position.
As always, consult your doctor before starting any new fitness routine, especially if you are pregnant, have back pain, hernia, or joint issues. Improper movements and positioning can cause injury, so beginners should take a class from a licensed professional as well.
To learn more about the history of Tai Chi, check out this video on YouTube.
How Many Tai Chi Moves Are There?
There are 13 postures, 13 principles, and 108 movements in tai chi. The postures are the foundation of the art, without which there is no form. The principles allow the mind to focus on one area, and the chi or energy, to flow into that area and should be a part of every movement.
How Long Should a Tai Chi Session Last?
The length of your tai chi session is dependent on your physical condition. One way to determine how long you should exercise is to clock how long you can walk at a steady pace comfortably. Someone in average condition can practice from 30 to 60 minutes.
What Are the Health Benefits of Tai Chi?
The practice of tai chi is growing in popularity due to its overwhelming health benefits. Research shows that there is potential to improve and be used as a treatment for various medical conditions, especially those that come with age.
Tai Chi is proven to:
- Increase Muscle Strength
- Improve Flexibility
- Increase Balance
- Stress Reduction
- Reduces hypertension
- Relieves headaches,
- Reduces insomnia
- Benefits mild arthritis and rheumatism
- Improves breathing and blood circulation
It has also been proven to help treat the symptoms of anxiety and depression, fibromyalgia, COPD, arthritis, and Parkinson's Disease.
Does Tai Chi Help You Sleep? Does It Reduce Stress?
Tai chi is excellent for reducing stress by engaging the body in graceful, dancelike stretching and improved breathing and meditation. This, in turn, can result in a reduction in insomnia, as stress and breathing issues are leading causes of sleep difficulties.
Can You Lose Weight Doing Tai Chi?
Regular practice of tai chi can result in slow and steady weight loss over time. It is ideal for those who have weight to lose but cannot participate in more strenuous activities. That being said, because it is low-impact, don't expect to drop weight quickly!
What Should You Wear to Practice Tai Chi?
One bonus of practicing tai chi is the fact that it requires no special gear or equipment. That being said, it is important that you have comfortable clothes that are easy to move in and will not bind or constrict. Clothing items hold be loose and flowy and ideally made of cotton so your skin can breathe.
In tai chi, Qi follows the meridians, which are located near the surface of the skin. Skin-tight clothes can inhibit this and restrict the flow of Qi. YOu should also avoid items with tight elastic at the waist, wrists, or ankles.
For men, running shorts or pants and a t-shirt are perfectly acceptable for practicing tai chi. A good option would be loose cotton pants, like these, that are gathered at the bottom but still easy and breathable.
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For women, loose yoga pants with a loose flowing cotton top are a good choice.
There are also pajama-like outfits that work wonderfully.
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There are traditional uniforms for the practice of tai chi, which can differ, depending on what form is being practiced. These uniforms are usually reserved for special occasions or presentations.
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Some people prefer to practice tai chi barefooted, where possible, but if you want to wear shoes, it is important that you have a pair that are lightweight, flexible, and non-slip. They should have a broad sole and shock absorbant pads to help prevent injury.
A simple pair of slip-on shoes like these meet all of these requirements.
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Tai Chi is an ancient and revered form of martial arts that is low-impact and has a host of health benefits, especially for older practitioners or those with chronic conditions that prevent them from engaging in more challenging workouts.
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