It’s a stereotype with some truth to it. When the new year rolls in, losing weight, becoming stronger and eating healthy is on top of the list of our resolutions. Gyms are now full of people motivated to make 2014 the year they meet their fitness goals. The soul is willing, but the body ensures these same gyms are emptier long before summer.
Fitness for older adults is different. Older adults are less likely to begin a fitness regimen let alone drop out of one. As we get older, our balance, muscles, bones and other body systems begin to decline. Older adults may want to exercise but choose not because of the fear of falling and sustaining serious injury, or because there are physical/medical limitations to their ability to participate.
If you are an older adult, consider Tai Chi for 2014 to meet your fitness goals. Several studies have shown that Tai Chi is an aerobic exercise. Unlike other aerobic exercises like running, Tai Chi is relaxing, pain-relieving, low-impact, may require as little as 20 minutes a day to effect benefits and can be practiced in the comfort of one’s home.
However, just like other forms of exercise, Tai Chi burns calories, increases muscle strength (particularly in the lower extremities) and flexibility. Additionally, studies have shown that Tai Chi promotes, natural, freer breathing, strengthens your heart, sharpens the mind and enhances psychological well-being and improves the quality of sleep. For those who participate in group Tai Chi lessons, it promotes social interaction and bonding.
Tai Chi is a great tool for weight loss. Weight exerts pressure on the knees, hips and other body parts. This makes it difficult or inadvisable for overweight persons to pursue other types of exercise because it leads to pain and injury. Tai Chi on the other hand, is very gentle on the body and regular participation leads to weight loss.
“Tai chi’s mental benefits can also give us the perspective we need to make wiser food choices.
‘A lot of our dietary choices are based on our state of stress and anxiety,’ says Douglas. ‘After a stressful day, we’re hardly ever drawn to steamed broccoli. We crave greasy, salty food that helps us forget about the stress of the day.’
Take 20 minutes to do a little tai chi…and ”your palate has a whole different need. You’re not denying yourself; you’re just more in tune to what the body is really asking for.”
So if your new year’s resolution is to get fit and strong choose Tai Chi for 2014. You are more likely to stick to it because of the ease of participation and bountiful benefits.
Wayne, Peter, and Mark Fuerst. The Harvard medical school guide to tai chi: 12 weeks to a healthy body, strong heart, and sharp mind. Boston: Shambhala, 2013. Print.