Stressed out? Instead of hitting the treadmill, take a closer look at the Supreme Ultimate Boxing System, better known as Tai Chi. Known for it’s emphasis on breathing that provides physical and psychological benefits for all ages, this ancient Chinese form of exercise is this week’s Grobby (that’s Greatist lingo for hobby) Therapeutic benefits of Tai Chi exercise: research review. Kuramoto, A.M. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing, WI, USA. WMJ. 2006 Oct;105(7):42-6..

Ying and Yang — The Need-to-Know

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Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese practice combining sequences of slow, controlled movements with spiritual meditation focusing on breath regulation and awareness Therapeutic benefits of Tai Chi exercise: research review. Kuramoto, A.M. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing, WI, USA.WMJ. 2006 Oct;105(7):42-6.. Tai Chi has roots in both Taoism and martial arts, and was originally developed as a form of self-defense. Today, it’s best known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety and is practiced by over two hundred and fifty million people worldwide Therapeutic benefits of Tai Chi exercise: research review. Kuramoto, A.M. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing, WI, USA.WMJ. 2006 Oct;105(7):42-6.. Tai Chi includes a variety of styles that can be practiced at different levels of intensity, making it an adaptable activity for all ages and skills Therapeutic benefits of Tai Chi exercise: research review. Kuramoto, A.M. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing, WI, USA.WMJ. 2006 Oct;105(7):42-6. A review focused on the psychological effectiveness of tai chi on different populations. Zhang L, Layne C, Lowder T, Liu J. Department Of Physical Education, Shenzhen Polytechnic, Shenzhen 518055, China. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:678107. Epub 2011 Jul 18.. It also requires little upfront expense and can be practiced virtually anywhere (anyone up for a rooftop workout?).

Tai Chi’s emphasis on the mind and body gives it an abundance of potential psychological benefits. Research suggests Tai Chi can reduce anxiety, ease tension, and improve both sleep quality and self-esteem Therapeutic benefits of Tai Chi exercise: research review. Kuramoto, A.M. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing, WI, USA.WMJ. 2006 Oct;105(7):42-6. A review focused on the psychological effectiveness of tai chi on different populations. Zhang L, Layne C, Lowder T, Liu J. Department Of Physical Education, Shenzhen Polytechnic, Shenzhen 518055, China. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:678107. Epub 2011 Jul 18. Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis. Wang C, Bannuru R, Ramel J, Kupelnick B, Scott T, Schmid CH. Division of Rheumatology, Tufts Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 May 21;10:23. It's also a low impact activity which, when practiced regularly, research suggests may help older individuals regain strength and improve balance and flexibility Improvement in balance, strength, and flexibility after 12 weeks of Tai chi exercise in ethnic Chinese adults with cardiovascular disease risk factors. Taylor-Piliae RE, Haskell WL, et. al. Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford University, Calif, USA. Altern Ther Health Med. 2006 Mar-Apr;12(2):50-8. Tai Chi as an adjunct to cardiac rehabilitation exercise training. Taylor-Piliae RE. Department of Physiological Nursing, School of Nursing, University of California San Francisco, USA J Cardiopulm Rehabil. 2003 Mar-Apr;23(2):90-6.. Tai Chi has also been linked to reducing depression and its symptoms. Plus, research has shown that regularly practicing Tai Chi can improve cardiorespiratory function Tai Chi as an adjunct to cardiac rehabilitation exercise training. Taylor-Piliae RE. Department of Physiological Nursing, School of Nursing, University of California San Francisco, USA J Cardiopulm Rehabil. 2003 Mar-Apr;23(2):90-6..

Hold That Pose — Your Action Plan

To get started, check out a Tai Chi book or video, and consider observing a class to find out what to expect (from a number of different styles). Classes are held in a variety of places, including senior centers, gyms, and parks, so chances are there's a group to practice with nearby.

Make sure to wear lose comfortable clothing, and flexible flat-soled shoes that won’t slip. Posture and positioning is extremely important in practicing Tai Chi, so make sure to ask for clarification from the instructor if there are any concerns.

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