We know that older adults tend to become weaker as they age but when we think of weakness we often picture someone in his or her 60s or 70s. However, did you know that after age 40 we lose an average of 1% of muscle mass each year? We do not lose our strength overnight and the decline begins much earlier than we would expect. Many adults know that physical activity helps prevent the decline in physical abilities and many are active and continue to remain active well into their 40s. However, after 50 many of the activities that we enjoyed in our 40s are no longer a viable option for maintaining strength and muscle mass. Furthermore, as we approach the 60s for most of us the viable options to maintain physical fitness shift again. That’s what makes Tai Chi an excellent option for older adults. You can practice Tai Chi at any age and it is even a viable option for anyone from children up to people in their 100s.
It is so important to find activities we can do to help maintain muscle mass and core strength to ensure that we can continue to do the things that we love to do as we grow older. It is even better if the activity we find is one that will keep us engaged and that we are likely to commit to as we get older and older. After all, what good is an activity that helps maintain your muscle mass and core strength if you don’t do it? Or even if you have the self-discipline to do it, wouldn’t you rather do something that you enjoy and keeps you engaged than something that feels like a mindless or even worse — tortuous chore? Additionally, we need to find an activity that helps us remain flexible but is also kind to the joints. After all, while we can stave off the physical decline that comes with age, we cannot generate brand new joints and other body parts. We have to be cognizant of the fact that as our bodies age we have to modify our activities to match.
For centuries many people in China have found substantial health benefits from practicing Tai Chi. Not only does tai chi help maintain strength, flexibility and balance it is also wonderful exercise to keep the mind sharp and the body strong. Many Tai Chi practitioners claim greater mental sharpness as well as an overall feeling of well-being after practicing tai chi.
Tai Chi is a safe and gentle exercise that can grow and adapt with us as we age and even if we have diminished physical abilities. There are even forms of Tai Chi that cater to people who can only exercise while in a chair, including people in wheelchairs and people who have to stay in bed.
There are many active Tai Chi practitioners over the age of 100 who practice Tai Chi on a daily basis. Professor Wang Chan Chi lived to be over 100 years old and contributed much of his good health and longevity to controlling his desire and mind and “playing Tai Chi.” Click this link to see a video of of Wu Tunan at 100 years old practicing Tai Chi. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pBLnO1pZ9Y
Finally, studies have shown that people who practice Tai Chi are likely to continue to practice Tai Chi. This is probably because it is gentle and relaxing. It is an amazing stress-reliever after a long day, improves mood and even helps people sleep better. Additionally, it is low-impact and generally pain-free. Even people with arthritis can participate in Tai Chi. Also, Tai Chi, can be done anywhere and as few as 15 minutes a day can make a difference in your health. So don’t let that muscle loss sneak up on you. Help you body adapt to the physical changes that come with age by practicing Tai Chi so you can continue to do the things you love without having to rely on the people you love to do so.
Troyce Thome, Tai Chi for Health