Tai chi — the perfect exercise for all ages

Tai chi is the most popular martial art in the world with 300 million practitioners. So apart from its obvious aesthetic appeal and philosophy, why is this graceful and powerful martial art form so popular?

It is because of the many proven health benefits that can be achieved through the practice of tai chi, such as reducing pain and improving mobility in people with arthritis.

Silk reeling, which is the name given to the method of movement in tai chi, applies the method of spiral rotation to all motions in a very slow, gentle, way. These types of motions provide suitable physiological workload, so that all bones, joints, and muscles of the body are systematically exercised. Bone density and thickness can be increased after a significant period of regular practice. With the improvements in bone structure, bones are stronger and more resistant to twisting, pressure, and bending. Osteoporosis can often be reverted to osteopenia through tai chi.

As we get older, the risk of falls becomes higher due to various physical, psychological, and environmental factors. Tai chi is an exercise that has been proven through studies to be the most effective to improve balance and is recommended by doctors worldwide. It improves the body’s mobility, flexibility, coordination, and balance by increasing strength and flexibility of working muscles and joints and expanding motion range.

The heart also benefits hugely from the practice of tai chi. Those who have come across tai chi may be familiar with the fact that it reduces hypertension (high blood pressure ), but you may not be aware of the other positive effects on cardiovascular health and function. Hypertension increases with stress and ageing as the nervous system shifts into a more sympathetic dominant role. As we know, high blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, aneurysms, and renal failure.

Tai chi can be practised to whatever level of intensity suits a person's health, age, and fitness. The elderly and those recovering from illness or injuries can be seen practising alongside young people trying to reduce stress, making tai chi a universally accessible and loved exercise system that offers huge benefits in today's fast paced world. You can restore your balance, energy, and calm with this very enjoyable and gentle exercise.

Tai chi is not limited to adults. Due to extensive research in the benefits that children can derive from tai chi practice, Chen Tai Chi Ireland is the first in Ireland to offer tai chi for children. Many parents may not associate this beautiful art form with children, however the research has been done in countries where children do practise tai chi, and children stand to gain a lot from this exercise, such as an increase in focus and concentration by learning to centre their attention, alleviating anxiety by learning how to remain calm in situations, and improvements in coordination to name just some of the many benefits.

There will be a free talk and demonstration with tai chi expert Niall O Floinn (one of Ireland’s top tai chi coaches and founder of Chen Tai Chi Ireland ) in the Galway rowing club on Woodquay, Wednesday, September 11, from 7.30pm to 8.30pm. All are welcome.

Children's classes are now open for enrolment and will run in eight week terms.

For more information see www.chentaichiireland.com or call Eimear at 087 0524085.

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