I started Zumba classes a few weeks ago, and I’m hooked. Now I know what all the fuss is about: it’s an hour of high-intensity aerobic exercise set to great music, and it’s fun to do (and though I have two left feet, I make the best of it).
While this type of workout is a fairly recent new fad, Tai Chi has been around for centuries. It’s certainly not set to pulse-boosting, heart-pounding music, but this ancient fitness regimen gets people moving, with generations of good results backing it.
According to this article by Neil Wagner of The Atlantic, Tai Chi is an ideal exercise for seniors who want to stay active because it makes arteries more flexible, rather than stiffening them as others do. This is important because, per Wagner, “arterial flexibility…is an indicator of cardiovascular health.” Those who practice Tai Chi regularly, said Wagner, had greater flexibility and muscle strength and lower blood pressure than those who did not. Some studies have even demonstrated an improvement among those with Parkinson’s and arthritis.
A versatile routine, Tai Chi “requires no special equipment and can be performed indoors or outdoors, alone or in groups,” Wagner writes. (That’s a relief: no Nordic Track to collect dirty laundry in your living room!)
Besides the physical results, Tai Chi, like yoga or really any form of movement or exercise, is also good for the soul and mind. A recent study (out of the University of Southern Florida and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease) showed that Chinese seniors had better performances on memory and thinking tests because of years of faithful Tai Chi-ing; this WebMD article also speaks to the beyond body benefits of the centuries-old practice.
If you’ve been looking for a new fitness regimen for yourself or a family member/friend, consider Tai Chi. Check out this listing of Tai Chi exercise DVDs on Amazon, or call your local Parks & Recreation department or the local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation to see if there is a Tai Chi class available in your area. Many senior living communities offer Tai Chi classes as well.
Talk back: Do you do Tai Chi? Or Zumba? What’s your favorite way to get fit and stay moving?