by: Michael Auryn
July 31, 2012
Tai Chi was developed nearly one thousand years ago as a way to enhance the flow of vital energy in the body, with the health benefits of tai chi being one of the main reasons people still practice the technique today. In its earliest days, it was a secret teaching, passed down through generations of initiates. Today, the Chinese martial art is known throughout the world. Its popularity in America has grown since the 1960s, with Tai Chi instructors and classes being in most large American cities.
The Many Health Benefits of Tai Chi
While some traditional Chinese practices like acupuncture still garner their share of skepticism from western science, Tai Chi is viewed as a safe and effective way to enhance personal health and wellness. The martial art is known for its slow movements, which gently work all the major muscle groups and promote relaxation. Tai Chi is considered a form of “mind-body” medicine in the west. There are several key health benefits that make Tai chi an appealing way to enhance wellness.
Enhanced Mood and Wellbeing
A 2006 study at Stanford University demonstrated how Tai Chi has a significant impact on overall mental and emotional wellbeing. 39 subjects were given 12 weeks of Tai Chi instruction and their mental health was assessed before and afterward. The participants were evaluated for overall mood, stress levels, perceived social supports and self-confidence measures. What Tai Chi enthusiasts would find fascinating is that the subjects showed significant improvement in all four of these categories. Perceived stress levels showed the largest decline, demonstrating how Tai Chi is a safe, effective way to improve mood.
The Stanford study also assessed some measures of muscular strength and range of motion. The group collectively improved in both upper-body strength and lower-body strength. A Japanese study that measured the same factors and lasted the same 12 week duration showed a 30 percent improvement in lower-body strength and a 25 percent improvement in arm strength.