Exercise

13 Health Benefits of Tai Chi, According to Science (+8 Tips for Beginners)

Tai Chi is a form of martial arts practice that most people take up to increase balance, blood circulation, and body posture. Its low-impact range of motions alleviates high blood pressure and other heart problems. Plus, it’s a good anti-inflammation boosting workout for older adults.

Tai Chi makes use of moderate, but steady joints and muscle movements that puts very little pressure on the body. It’s all about balance, stability, and body coordination that enhances Tai Chi practice. The areas that Tai Chi targets are the arms, legs, shoulders, your core, and back. With that out of the way, Tai Chi is only practiced standing up so there’s healthy blood circulation and concentration.

For beginners, Tai Chi is an excellent practice to feel and look healthy. You can do them at home, outdoors, or in classes. It requires both concentration and flexibility to progress to more advanced moves.

That said, let’s look at Tai Chi’s most surprising health benefits that makes the practice more effective and interesting.

1. Tai Chi Can Relieve Weight Gain Problems For Most People

Even though Tai Chi is a noncompetitive martial art, its various defense techniques reduce stress and burn calories. Based on a scientific review, practicing Tai Chi is similar to walking at a moderate-pace. It burns the same amount of calories and when continued for weeks, can result in weight loss.

Combined with reduced stress and a healthy diet, Tai Chi is one of the healthiest ways to burn fat. Another important factor is that Tai Chi helps monitor high stress levels that are associated with weight gain. It reduces appetite for over-eating and positive influences weight management. (1)

A study on Tai Chi combined with regular walking showed that it leads to increased energy expenditure. An accelerated energy expenditure level often causes better weight loss and fat burn. Based on many randomized trials evaluating over 360 participants, this study proves that implementation of Tai Chi on a regular basis leads to reduce body fat. (2)

Also, energy expenditure also boosts metabolism which is effective for reducing body fat. According to some studies, reduced body fat often leads to loss of bone mineral density, but Tai Chi helps prevent loss of bone during exercise.

Key Takeaway: The ancient practice of Tai Chi has powerful weight loss benefits for adults. It helps burn calories, reduce hormonal stress, and increases bone mineral density. All these factors help reduce body fat in the healthy manner.

2. Tai Chi Can Help Prevent And Treat Chronic Neck Pain

Tai chi targets your back while using all the muscles surrounding the neck and the shoulders. Because Tai Chi is a low-impact workout it is good for relieving muscle and joint pain. For chronic neck pain sufferers, practicing Tai Chi on a daily basis can put minimal stress on the shoulders and back.

A study on chronic neck pain and Tai Chi showed that a combination of neck exercises, stretches, and Tai Chi can alleviate neck pain. It improves neck flexibility and eliminates pressure on the neck and shoulder muscles. (3)

A number of factors such as neck movement, perceived stress, and awareness are affected due to chronic neck pain. All these symptoms can be reduced and treated with Tai Chi.

On the other hand, according to American Pain Society, Tai Chi can relieve constant neck pain. These results are based on a controlled trial with 114 participants. The study concluded that 12 persistent weeks of Tai Chi practice improved neck mobility, reduced pain, and improved postural control. (4)

Paired with deep breathing and neck exercises, Tai Chi is proven effective for the treatment and prevention of chronic and continued neck pain.

Key Takeaway: If you often suffer from neck pain, some studies show that Tai Chi can help lower stress and stiffness related to chronic neck pain. It also increases muscle flexibility and improve postures in adults.

3. Practicing Tai Chi Daily Can Lower High Blood Pressure

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common phenomenon among adults with unhealthy eating habits and lack of proper exercise. Stress or environmental distress are also two essential contributors to high blood pressure.

Hence relaxing, low-impact exercises including Tai Chi are known to alleviate hypertension symptoms. A recent scientific review concluded that Tai Chi helps reduce blood pressure in a more natural way than other traditional treatments.

This study took into account 9 randomized controlled trials and 13 nonrandomized trials for prove the health effects of Tai Chi on blood pressure. These studies reported positive cardiovascular health and lower diastolic and systolic blood pressure levels associated with hypertension. (5)

Another study associated with blood pressure, lipid profile, and anxiety showed that 12 weeks of Tai Chi training improved biomarkers of high blood pressure. It helps decrease blood pressure and lipid profile on the participant’s anxiety status. A simple Tai Chi training program practiced 3 times a week can dramatically reduce diastolic and systolic blood levels within the body. (6)

Key Takeaway: Tai Chi is a relaxing way to reduce high blood pressure in patients with high anxiety levels. It also has a direct impact of lipid blood levels than other traditional hypertension treatments.

4. Tai Chi Has Powerful Benefits To Relieve Symptoms Of Arthritis

Recent studies now back Tai Chi as an effective treatment for arthritis. According to one study, Tai Chi comes close to practicing leg strengthening exercises to prevent frequent falls. Conditions such as arthritis, age-related bone disorders, and muscle weakness increases chances of a fall. So with the swift motions and relaxation techniques mostly practiced in Tai Chi, elders can help reduce arthritic falls. (7)

This study was conducted promoting muscle strength and balance in elder participants. The results concluded almost 50% recovery for both injury prevention and arthritic control.

Moving forward, another study conducted on 40 knee osteoarthritis patients observed that Tai Chi helps prevent pain, fight off physical stiffness, and improves knee function. (8)

Knee osteoarthritic also impacts mental health and quality of life. Both of these factors are positively influenced by persistent Tai Chi practice.

According to the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Tai Chi prohibits different types of arthritis including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia. This study also took into account various symptoms such as fatigue, pain, and stiffness.

The results from over 350 participants showed that those who received Tai Chi training reported better improvements in arthritic symptoms. It also put an end to helplessness and anxiety associated with arthritis. (9)

Key Takeaway: Multiple studies show how Tai Chi benefits arthritic patients. It provides impressive improvements in physical function, especially for hip and knee related arthritis.

5. People Who Practiced Tai Chi Experienced Less Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Parkinson’s disease is a nervous system disorder characterized by progressive movement disabilities. Symptoms start with hand tremors, stiffness, and loss of balance when seated or moving. This long-term degenerative disorder affects the body’s entire motor system.

People with Parkinson’s disease can reduce the tenseness and anxiety associated with its symptoms. It is possible with regular physical exercise, especially Tai Chi. A study on 31 patients with PD showed a significant drop in muscle stiffness and depression with persistent Tai Chi practice.

The same study on 50 patients showed a gradual improvement in overall health and neuroprotective condition. (10)

Tai Chi helps improve balance and posture in PD patients. A study including 33 people showed that those who participated in Tai Chi for 10-13 weeks improved mobility, gait, and balance. Hence, Tai Chi is an effective method of treatment for people with moderate-level PD. (11)

Based on certain reports, the drugs prescribed to reduce PD symptoms also cause nervousness and depression. But thanks to Tai Chi practice, patients can alleviate psycho-emotional symptoms by practicing 3 times a week.

Key Takeaway: To sum it up, Parkinson’s disease patients can alleviate painful symptoms of the disorder with persistent Tai Chi practice. The studies have all reported positive feedback to reflect Tai Chi’s non-competitive and low-impact training program.

6. Tai Chi Can Dramatically Reduce The Development Of Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes management includes a healthy diet and regular physical exercise. Diabetes requires better blood sugar levels, insulin levels, and reduced tension.

For this reason, recent studies have proven the benefits of Tai Chi for the treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes. One study showed a 60% improvement in diabetic symptoms with regular Tai Chi practice. Tai Chi minimizes muscle weakness and improves peripheral function associated with diabetes. Plus, it even accelerated nutrient absorption in the body to fight off deficiencies. (12)

Another study showed that an 8-week implementation of Tai Chi improved blood glucose levels, insulin capacity, and insulin receptors in diabetic patients. (13)

Markers such as insulin sensitivity and blood glucose are measured to diagnose a diabetic condition. That is why low-impact workouts, like Tai Chi, are important to bring levels back to normal.

Lastly, based on British Medical Journal, paired with breathing exercises, Tai Chi can improve the body’s immune response toward Tai Chi. It even reduces chronic inflammation associated with type 2 diabetes.

High blood pressure, metabolic irregularities, and high blood glucose were better controlled with Tai Chi practice. Plus, the study also reported weight loss and better sleeping cycles. (14)

Key Takeaway: People struggling with diabetes often experience unexplained weight gain, hypertension, and increased appetite. Regular Tai Chi exercise can boost the immune system against high blood glucose and insulin receptor levels. This treats and prevents the development of type 2 diabetes in unhealthy patients.

7. Practicing Tai Chi Is Good For Improving Mental Health And Fighting Anxiety

A recent review on 40 studies proved that the implementation of Tai Chi has positive mental health benefits. It is directly associated with anxiety, depression, and stress. That said, it also helps elders deal with chronic illnesses associated with these symptoms. (15)

17 randomized trials proved that Tai Chi’s low-impact workout routine enhances psycho-emotional and psychological health. It deals with random mood disturbances, stress, and anxiety.

Studies suggest that Chinese exercises are widely practiced for boosting happiness and relieving stress for elders. Factors such as age, gender, and diet weigh in to decrease anxiety and nervousness. Tai Chi reduces somatic symptoms to bring high blood pressure levels back to normal. It increases endorphins levels and minimizes inflammatory responses on a cellular level. (16)

The C-reactive protein is a severe inflammatory marker that is directly associated with mental health and depression. Ta Chi inhibits cortisol levels and reduces chances of stress-related immune dysfunction in both children and adults.

Other interventions on Tai Chi showed that it improves tension headaches and poor mood disturbances. When paired with healthy diet and deep breathing exercises can have a positive impact on mental and psychological health.

Key Takeaway: Tai Chi practices are known to promote mindfulness to reduce anxiety, depression, and nervousness. It also includes self-esteem and plays a major role at promoting general mental health.

8. Tai Chi Also Improves Concentration And Physical Control

Since Tai Chi is a low-impact martial art, its practice aims to improve mental concentration and postural control. Combined with stretching and deep breathing, adults cultivate steady movements that have impressive physiological benefits.

A study on the positive effects of Tai Chi on heart rate and mental concentration showed that it helps increase physical speed and accuracy. Twenty minutes of Tai Chi practice and other yoga balancing poses can promote lower cortisol levels and decrease heart rate for better physical control. (17)

Another health concern that Tai Chi treats is lack of balance, especially in older adults. Loss of balance can cause frequent falls and lower quality of life. This gives rise to other age-related conditions including arthritis, knee inflammation, and painful joints.

This review also concluded that Tai Chi gradually raises your heart beat to boost the immune system and musculoskeletal health. (18)

Key Takeaway: Most of the research on Tai Chi conducted on older adults proves that it targets physical balance and mental concentration. It reduces high blood pressure and lowers high cortisol levels to treat anxiety and loss of balance-related injuries.

9. Tai Chi Is Directly Associated With Reducing Insomnia Caused By Breast Cancer

Breast cancer treatment includes hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, and chemotherapy. These treatments require pain medication which causes sleep-related problems. Insomnia in breast cancer patients causes fatigue, daytime sleepiness, restlessness during sleep, and loss of concentration.

Based on a present-day study, Tai Chi helps alleviate sleep problems in breast cancer survivors. It treats sleep loss and promotes energy production to fight off fatigue. Based on multiple cognitive and behavioral therapy results, the health effects of Tai Chi can suppress depressive symptoms as well. (19)

Tai Chi allows the body to relax and breathe slowly. So cancer survivors practicing this technique reported feeling less depressed and fatigue during daytime. Weekly implementation resulted in increased sleeping cycles and less restlessness.

Many Tai Chi participants reported an increased sense of confidence and motivation to stay active during the day. This is also one of the positive ways to get a good night’s rest.

Key Takeaway: Additional health benefits of Tai Chi includes reduce fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and insomnia. Breast cancer patients undergoing cognitive and behavioral therapy to treat insomnia can also practice Tai Chi as a daily exercise routine.

10. Daily Tai Chi Practice Can Reduce Inflammation And Fight Diseases

There are many inflammatory markers in the body. And increased inflammation can give rise to many diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, etc. In other words, only a certain amount of oxidant capacity in the body is good for a healthy immune system.

That said, lack of proper sleep and active inflammation in the body can cause serious health concerns. According to Biological Psychiatry, movement meditation therapy, including Tai Chi, can help curb inflammation in elders.

It helps reduce sleep inflammation along with molecular inflammatory pathways directly associated with chronic diseases. (20)

C-reactive protein is one of the leading causes of sleep disturbances and inflammation. A 16-month study found that daily practice of Tai Chi can reduce cellular inflammation and activated anti-inflammatory signal pathways within the body. This study emphasized on reducing mental health inflammation to promote overall health and well-being.

Key Takeaway: If you think Tai Chi is only good for the muscles and heart, think again. People who practiced Tai Chi for 16 months had big improvements in inflammation reduction and sleep.

11. Pursuing Tai Chi Is Considered Good For Your Nervous System

A recent study published in 2010 evaluated the positive effects of Tai Chi on the nervous system. It showed that Tai Chi promotes better nerve signal pathways between the brain and spinal cord to improve both physical function and concentration.

Our body’s nerves need plenty of fuel to send signals from the spinal cord to the brain. So with only a few weeks into practicing Tai Chi, you might be able to promote a better nerve response.

Healthy nerve signal pathways reduce the number of falls and improves balance in older adults. It even helps elders gain control over stiff muscles, lower back, and the hips. This development can prevent diabetes, heart problems, and arthritis. (21)

Another study showed how Tai Chi can inhibit certain degenerative nerve diseases. Peripheral neuropathy is a condition with only a handful of effective treatment alternatives. One of them is Tai Chi practice as it decreases the number of falls, increases stamina, and improves flexibility. (22)

A persistent training program with 75 participants proved that regular Tai Chi training offers pain relief from degenerative nerve diseases. It also promotes better walking and standing posture for older adults.

Neuropathic pain is another key factor in the treatment and prevention of degenerative nerve diseases. Tai Chi improves the pain stimuli pathways in the body to boost the immune system. It even prevents and treats injuries directly associated with peripheral neuropathy. (23)

Key Takeaway: The development of nerve pain affects both anti-inflammatory and immune factors. Based on multiple studies, Tai Chi inhibits nerve pain and strengthens the nervous system to boost neurotransmitter health. This leads to better physical and mental stability in older adults.

12. Tai Chi Improves Stamina And Muscle Strength

Loss of stamina deteriorates physical capacity, especially as you age. This can have long-term health effects causing chronic obstructive pulmonary heart disease. This condition causes breathlessness and fatigue that only gets worse with time.

A recent study found that Tai Chi, with its low-impact training program, can alleviate muscle-related symptoms that hinder physical capacity. It promotes better flexibility, fights stiffness, and makes it easy for elders to move around with pain.

It also alleviates pain and stress associated with sitting and standing for long periods of time in patients with osteoarthritis. Hence, Tai Chi prevents all forms of discomfort including pain and soreness related with chronic muscle-related conditions. (24)

A similar study found that Tai Chi promotes better arterial compliance and muscle capacity in older patients. This study evaluated 65 elders with little or no experience in Tai Chi practice. The results showed that those who practiced Tai Chi on a daily basis showed better muscle extensor and flexor capacity than those who didn’t. (25)

The positive effects of Tai Chi practice on blood pressure can also affect physical capacity in elders with chronic health conditions.

Key Takeaway: Tai Chi improves muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance in older adults. It even helps relieve pain and soreness related with many chronic, age-related diseases.

13. The Positive Health Effects Of Tai Chi Also Prevents Numerous Cardiovascular Diseases

One study looked at the effects of Tai Chi on patients with chronic kidney disorder and cardiovascular disease. The study involved 21 patients who practiced Tai Chi for 30 minutes 3-5 times a week. This went on for at least 12 weeks before the participants reported lower blood pressure, low density lipoprotein, and cholesterol improvements. (26)

In addition to these improvements, there was a significant decrease in renal inflammation associated with kidney failure and chronic kidney disease. Tai Chi training restricted poor physical performance associated with heart problems. It is also associated with better survival rate among patients with severe last-stage renal diseases.

Other results based on aerobic exercises such as jogging, walking, and cycling also concluded that moderate-level exercise for at least 30 minutes can dramatically affect heart and kidney health. It brings creatintine, triglyceride, and HDL levels back to normal.

Key Takeaway: The benefits of Tai Chi also include the prevention of heart disease and kidney failure. It lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and promotes better blood circulation to different parts of the body.

Doing Tai Chi The Right Way – 8 Useful Tips For Beginners

Tai Chi consists of performing complicated movements. Learning the correct body positions as well as alignments while carrying out such movements is essential.

You may have your own reasons for taking up Tai Chi, 13 important ones are discussed in detail above. But the struggle of learning the movements correctly is the same for all. So it’s necessary for you to understand how to practice Tai Chi more efficiently. This is when you transform your awkward, empty movements into an energy-packed workout session.

But the process is not an easy one, right? So here are 8 incredibly effective Tai Chi beginner tips.

1. Precise Foot Movement Is Important

Let me begin by stating that proper foot positioning is something that you need to keep in check when practicing this technique. There are two important support foot patterns involved; double limb and single limb.

In Tai Chi, the movements demand more support of double limbs and less support of a single limb. Another crucial point to keep in mind is that moving from one support pattern to the other should be slow. (27)

2. Keep Your Nutrition In Check

Some of us only concentrate on the physical aspect of every exercise. While that is an excellent approach, it is also an incomplete one. Nutrition plays a vital role when performing martial arts or any other physically challenging activity.

You have to eat smaller meals more frequently. And these meals should be rich in proteins, even if it’s a snack. And the most important nutrition tip here is that vegetables need to be a part of every meal or snack that you consume. That’s because veggies help in preserving muscle tissue and bone mass. (28)

3. Stretch To Increase Flexibility

Beginners, please take note. This might be one of the most useful tips to get you through the initial phases of Tai Chi training. I’ve heard some people say that stretching is overrated. Please remember not to take any advice from such people in your entire life. Because there’s nothing better than stretching to increase body flexibility.

With more flexibility, you get the opportunity to improve your accuracy, speed, and overall physical abilities. And this is important when training for Tai Chi, isn’t it? Stretching using the correct techniques is an ongoing process, so keep at it until you’re able to achieve maximum flexibility. (29)

4. Stay Calm During Training

The best Tai Chi fighters are not emotionally frustrated people venting out their negativity during training or performance. To the contrary, they have a completely calm, nonchalant, and detached state of mind. And this is something that you achieve with vigorous training. (30)

But you need to keep this in mind during your sessions. Let your movements be quick and loud, not your consciousness. The goal is to be aware and focused. This is how you train your mind to make all the right moves at the correct time while also keeping emotional distractions at bay. And that is what technique is all about, isn’t it?

5. Consistency Is Key

You don’t need to be a professional to master consistency. Practicing Tai Chi, even as a beginner, requires you to maintain consistency. It doesn’t matter if you’re still at level 1; martial arts training fosters health deep within the body.

If you make it a point to train regularly, you’re getting your mind used to paying more attention to energy mechanics and body alignments. This means every short or long practice session helps in gaining more control and developing better skills. (31)

6. Practice Outdoors

If you want to learn how to do Tai Chi more effectively, then take it outside. Let’s take running as an example here. When you run outdoors, you stress your leg and ankle muscles differently than when running on a treadmill at the gym or at home. Physical training sessions tend to be more strenuous when performed in an outdoor environment. (32)

So the next time you want to practice Tai Chi, do it in your backyard. Such a habit encourages better movement and more activity.

7. Wear Suitable Shoes

Protective footwear is rule number one when it comes to martial arts and sports. And there are many reasons why you shouldn’t skip this part. The first one is hygiene. You don’t want to attract skin and fungal infections now, do you?

The second reason is kind of an important one. When you’re in a real self-defense type of situation, are you going to be barefoot? Probably not, right? So it’s better to practice Tai Chi more realistically.

And lastly, martial arts shoes come with padded protection. And this is responsible for cushioning your feet against hard kicks and blows. (33)

8. Stay Hydrated

To avoid feeling light headed even during your practice session, it’s important to keep yourself hydrated. And not just during the workout but at the beginning of the day. Such a habit boosts your metabolism rate and gets you going.

Gulping down a glass of water one hour prior to your Tai Chi class also provides your body with the much-needed hydration. And another thing to keep in mind here is to avoid sugary drinks before and after the training session. They don’t quench your thirst in any way. (34)

Wrapping It Up

There’s no doubt that Tai Chi training is one of the best practices you can do for your body. If you’ve read so far to discover what’s in store for you, it means you are serious about practicing Tai Chi for life. With both mental and physical health benefits to look forward to, Tai Chi helps improve health in a very short span of time.

All you have to do is train for 30 minutes either daily or 3-5 times a week. And with all your efforts, you will reap its positive health benefits immediately. To sum it, Tai Chi boosts brain activity, helps older adults with bone and muscle-related problems, and reduces risk of chronic kidney and heart diseases.

Like any other form of martial arts, a lot of what you’re eating the entire day impacts your Tai Chi training. Also, the amount of sleep you get during nighttime. Studies show that Tai Chi when paired with healthy eating habits and deep breathing exercises can transform the way you live. Another bonus of practicing Tai Chi is how gentle it feels on your joints, so there is very little chance of injury.

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