More and more people are taking up Tai Chi to improve their health. Did you know that this ancient martial art has a number of important benefits for the heart?
Tai Chi involves a series of graceful, gentle movements that can get your heart rate up while also relaxing your mind. It’s been called meditation in motion.
Many people find it more enjoyable than other types of exercise, such as jogging or swimming. That alone can make it much easier to maintain an exercise routine.
Practicing Tai Chi is about as strenuous as taking a walk. That makes it an effective way to meet your daily exercise needs, while also helping with balance and flexibility. It focuses on breathing, paying attention, and visualization, which seem to lower stress.
A new study found that among people with heart problems, practicing Tai Chi improved quality of life and lowered stress, anxiety, and depression. These problems can increase risk for both heart attacks and strokes. The researchers looked at data from 15 other studies involving more than 1,850 patients to reach their conclusions.
But psychological benefits are only part of the story. Tai Chi has multiple heart-healthy effects in the body.
For instance, research shows Tai Chi can lower blood pressure. In a study of 208 people with somewhat elevated blood pressure, those who practiced Tai Chi for 3 months significantly decreased their blood pressure, compared to those who didn’t.
And in a study of obese patients with diabetes, Tai Chi lowered cholesterol and Body Mass Index (BMI), a measure of weight and height used to define obesity. It also improved C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a marker of inflammation in the body. These changes are key ways to help boost your heart health!
Tai Chai is particularly helpful for people with heart failure, who may feel tired and weak because their heart’s pumping ability has decreased. The slow movements strengthen the heart without straining it. If you have had a heart attack or other heart problem, Tai Chi may be an excellent way to recover. Just make sure your doctor has given you the OK to begin this new exercise first.
If you want to try Tai Chi, look for classes at community centers, parks, health clubs and hospitals. During the COVID-19 crisis, there are remote classes that you can watch on your computer to avoid being with others. Some classes are free; in others, you may be charged a small fee. All you need are comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
Here are some free videos that will give you a sense of Tai Chi movements. Follow along if you’d like to give it a try!
Like any form of exercise, Tai Chi is good for your heart. But aspects of this movement practice make it one of the best for your heart.