Exercise plays a vital role in being able to enjoy a full and active lifestyle. As we age, we need to keep our bodies moving, strong, and flexible. But, like many people over 50, you may find regular classes (and even moderate exercise) too high impact and stressful on the joints. Are you looking for another activity to try? Take a look at why Tai Chi and Qigong are effective exercises for mature women.
Tai Chi and QiGong
Practiced across the world for their health, fitness, and well-being benefits, Tai Chi and QiGong are gentle exercises focusing on the mind-body connection. They are an excellent way to work out, stretch, and strengthen our bodies, and while they may seem effortless, they are very effective, especially for mature women. The fact that they’re low impact and easily adapted means they suit anyone, regardless of age or fitness level.
Tai Chi and QiGong movements are kept within our limitations; they’re never forced. During practice, the muscles are relaxed – not tense, and our joints are soft – not over-extended or over-stretched. Their ability to work out the body without stressing bones, joints, and muscles makes them a safe and comfortable way to keep active in later life. So, they’re gaining popularity as an exercise for anyone with joint pain, arthritis, or other chronic illness, and of course, the over 50s.
They’re also holistic, calming, great for relaxation and nurturing mental health. They are complementary in style, often practiced together and referred to as ‘moving meditation.’
What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi (or Tai Chi Chuan) originated many thousands of years ago as a Chinese Martial Art practiced for combat and self-defense. In fact, by definition, Tai Chi Chuan means ‘Supreme Ultimate Fist,’ and every move has a fighting application. Tai Chi Masters have passed down five main styles through generations. ‘Chen,’ the oldest, integrates kicks and strikes. ‘Yang,’ the most popular, involves larger, fluid movements.
Nowadays, there are many interpretations, and Tai Chi is more likely practiced for health, fitness, and well-being. It’s known for having slow, controlled movements choreographed into a ‘Form’ (sequence).
What is QiGong?
QiGong is a Traditional Chinese Medicine based on the belief that all living things exist with a balance of Yin and Yang energies. Qi means ‘energy’ and Gong means ‘work,’ therefore the movements’ work the energy’ circulating in and around our bodies. QiGong combines postures, stretches, bends, and deep breathing into a relaxing ‘Flow.’ It’s known for its self-healing and meditative style.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits
With regular practice, Tai Chi and QiGong can deliver a plethora of benefits to our bodies and minds. Here’s how:
Tai Chi and QiGong make us aware of our posture, alignment, weight distribution, and transfer and allow them time to move our bodies safely.
Build and Maintain Strength
The movements work all our major muscles, helping improve upper and lower body strength. Slow hand and footwork can be challenging but very effective, especially to strengthen the arms, legs, and core.
Enhanced Range of Motion
Moving across all planes of movement and incorporating bends and stretches (especially in QiGong) helps improve our flexibility and range of motion.
Muscle strength and flexibility are key components to maintaining our balance as we age and can be gained through Tai Chi and QiGong. We are intentional and deliberate when moving, and this builds confidence in everyday activities. Tai Chi also actively works to improve balance and is usually included in fall prevention guides.
Tai Chi and QiGong help us develop the skill of moving in sequence. This can also enhance hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and reaction speed.
Less Joint Pain and Stiffness
As we age, moderate exercise is essential for keeping joints loose and mobile. Their gentle nature means Tai Chi and QiGong are perfect in assisting in pain management.
Slow movement allows the body to relax, releasing tension, freeing stiffness, and de-stressing. As the physical unwinds, so does the mind. Often we suffer worry and anxiety when life feels ‘out of control.’ Tai Chi and QiGong help us feel in control, positive, and able to deal with daily life.
The true power of Tai Chi and QiGong is as mind-body exercise creating physical and mental harmony. As a result, we are more mindful and ‘in the moment.’
The relationship between mind, body, and breathing is why they’re good for relaxation. Deeper, slower breathing increases oxygen exchange, slows down the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and calms the adrenal (stress) glands.
And just like any exercise class, the social contact, interaction, and friendships are important for our mental health, especially in later life.
So, Tai Chi and QiGong are great for the over-50s crowd. They might not be a form of exercise you’ve considered before, but with all the physical and mental health benefits they can provide, they’re definitely worth giving a try.
We’ve already mentioned that Tai Chi and QiGong can keep you mentally sharp. So let’s review some other exercises that can help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia!