While many seniors like to be active, it can become harder as they age as a result of various health and body restrictions. As many exercise programs can tend to be strenuous, seniors can have trouble finding classes and programs to fit their needs. However, there are still options for seniors who either desire or require a form of low-impact yet effective exercise in order to stay fit and improve their overall well-being for the long term.
According to Sue Sunderland, Executive Director at The Bridges at Warwick, a senior living community in Jamison, PA, many seniors at their senior living community prefer to take advantage of a class that is offered called tai chi. “This form of exercise is known as a meditative type that was once practiced as a form of martial art,” says Sue. “This is beneficial to seniors who are in need of a form of exercise that is not only safe for their body, but can give them many social and mental benefits, as well. Our tai chi program offers our residents a specialized workout program tailored to their own specific needs and is designed to improve balance, increase endurance and ensure our residents take charge of their own physical health and mental well-being, making them not only happier but increasingly healthier.”
According to an article featured on WebMD, tai chi is a combination of slow, flowing, calculated movements and breathing exercises that flow together with no pause in order to keep the body in constant motion. Because of its low-impact nature, tai chi puts limited stress on joints and muscles while still allowing for the benefits to target the core, arms, legs, glutes and back muscles – unlike aerobic exercises that offer “heart-pumping workouts.” The article states that this exercise allows for “building strength in a subtle way” as “it’s not about powering through muscular poses, but about engaging your whole body.”
How Can Tai Chi Benefit Seniors?
“The benefits of this exercise are known to be widespread,” says Sue. “Thanks to the growing popularity of holistic therapies and the rise of active seniors, we are coming to find just how many benefits tai chi can have on those who prefer this method of mind and body exercise.”
- Enhanced Muscle Strength. Just like with any physical activity, muscle strength is improved with exercise. Although it may be surprising, tai chi can also enhance muscle strength even though it is low-impact, by working a large amount of muscles.
- Decreased Risk of Falls. Thanks to the increased balance, flexibility and strength that tai chi brings about, seniors are much less likely to suffer from a fall. According to a Cochrane review, seniors who practice were 35% less likely to have a fall than those who did not.
- Improved Mental Health. Tai chi is known to reduce the amount of stress due to its meditative nature. In an article by the Mayo Clinic, they state that tai chi allows for decreased stress, anxiety and depression and can even improve mood. While those benefits are proven, it is suggested that sleep can even become enhanced as a result.
- Delayed Risk of Dementia. According to a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, it shows that those who participated in tai chi and those who did not have had very different amounts of brain expansion and shrinkage. The article states that gradual cognitive deterioration that precedes dementia is associated with increasing shrinkage of the brain, and that tai chi, which increases mental activity may be able to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. Over eight months, those who did tai chi were shown to have an increase in brain volume, whereas those who did not, experienced brain shrinkage.
- Increased Lung Capacity. Because of the breathing exercises done during tai chi, it is suggested that respiratory health can benefit by the improvement of the circulation of oxygen.
- Increased Amount of Socializing. When tai chi is done in a group environment, people are more likely to talk to each other and continue practicing together. This common bond can help seniors to make friends and socialize more than they would when practicing on their own.
Before starting a class, talk to your doctor if you have any concerns. According to Melinda Ratini, MD in the article featured on WebMD, it is important to talk to your doctor “if you have any conditions such as diabetes or circulation problems, or if you take any medications that can make you dizzy when you change positions.” Your doctor may even work with you to create a plan of action that can help you to participate in tai chi, even if you have a medical condition that would usually make it hard to exercise.
To take advantage of the benefits of tai chi, find a qualified instructor and try taking a class. Many senior living communities, health clubs and fitness centers offer classes that range from beginner to intermediate. Because this form of exercise doesn’t require any special equipment, once you perfect the moves, you can begin practicing safely on your own anywhere you choose.
Celebrating Total Well-Being
If you would like to try or watch one of our classes, call or visit us at The Bridges at Warwick today. We would be glad to help you stay physically, emotionally and altogether well.
Activity. Friendship. Support. Convenience. Value.
Now open, you’ll find it all at The Bridges at Warwick, located in beautiful Bucks County, where everyday is a celebration of seniors. Our philosophy of “Celebrating Life” means that our residents enjoy a sense of purpose and contentment along with fun, personalized care and a focus on total well-being.
Our Personalized Supportive Care provides just the right amount of assistance to help you remain independent, along with life-enriching programs, services and amenities. Our exclusive Vista Transitional Living Program is for our supportive care residents who have memory challenges but do not yet require a secure residence. For those whose memory loss is more advanced, we offer The Vista, our specialized, comprehensive memory care residence.
In keeping with our founder Robert Basile’s personal philosophy, developed during his efforts to find quality senior living for his beloved father, senior adults remain our passion. We fill our residents’ lives with countless opportunities to engage with both new and treasured friends; events and programs to enjoy with family members and loved ones; as well as innovative and creative activities that foster engagement. Our dedication to total wellness – for mind, body and spirit – is woven into our culture every day.