If you’re an elderly wheelchair, walker or cane user, you may not have put much thought into taking up martial arts. But perhaps you should. Tai Chi, as we’ve previously mentioned, is a slow meditative martial art that’s great for helping the elderly and those with limited mobility stay active. It was invented by Chinese martial artist Zhang Sanfeng who, according to legend, was inspired by a dream he had about a snake and crane engaged in fluid combat. Tai Chi has been practiced in China since the 16th century. It first hit the United States in the early 70s and has been growing in popularity ever since. These days, most major American cities have Tai Chi groups and instructors.
The health benefits of Tai Chi are both numerous and impressive. A study of 256 seventy to ninety-two-year-olds concluded that “tai chi decreased the number of falls and the fear of falling.” Tai Chi is also known to improve hand eye coordination, increase balance, flexibility and strength, reduce blood pressure and improve the immune system. Tai Chi’s fluid movements and deep breathing exercises can even be practiced by those in wheelchairs. Generally, it takes twelve weeks of practicing once or twice a week for the health benefits to show.
Though Tai Chi can be practiced by anyone, if you experience “dizziness, shortness of breath, headaches, or severe pain” you should stop practicing and talk to your doctor. To find a Tai Chi group, try contacting your local YMCA or other health club. Good luck and stay active!