Tai chi, as it is practiced in the West today, is a moving form of yoga and meditation combined. When you perform tai chi, you complete a number of “forms” (sometimes also called “sets”) which consist of a sequence of movements. Many of these movements come from martial arts. However, when performed through tai chi, the movements are executed slowly, softly and gracefully, with smooth and even transitions between them.
When practicing tai chi, most people focus on the meditative aspect of the movements rather than the combative elements. The words “tai chi” come from Chinese philosophy and medicine, where the concept of”chi” is represented as a vital force that animates the body. One of the aims of tai chi is to boost the circulation of your chi. Practitioners believe that when you do this, your health and vitality will be strengthened. Your chi circulates in patterns that are closely related to the nervous and vascular system.
Learning to do tai chi exercises correctly could improve your mental well-being, your balance, your rhythm, and fine-scale motor control. Research has shown that the practice of tai chi could help you to stand, walk, move and run better. Problems with poor posture, alignment, or movement patterns could be corrected through the patient execution of Tai Chi.
It’s not surprising then, that in a recent clinical trial, tai chi improved the quality of sleep of older adults. A total of 118 men and women, aged 60 to 92, were recruited for the randomized trial. Participants were assigned either tai chi or low-impact exercise. Sessions lasted 60 minutes, three times per week, for 24 consecutive weeks.
The researchers measured the participants’ sleep quality, physical performance, and mental health. They found that sleep quality, sleep-onset latency, sleep duration, and sleep efficiency improved significantly in the tai chi group compared to the low-impact exercise group. Participants who performed the tai chi movements reported that they were able, on average, to get to sleep 18 minutes sooner than at the outset of the study, as well as sleeping an average of 48 minutes more per night.
The researchers concluded that older adults with sleep complaints could improve sleep quality by performing moderate-intensity tai chi.