Sports days are all about competitions, relay events, exercises and performances. One particular sports day in school remains etched in my memories as that specific year was all about performing Tai Chi in front of my parents and all other spectators. The first time my teacher uttered the word ‘Tai Chi’ there were giggles amongst students, but the practice started soon after and there was no looking back from then. We did a splendid performance at school and the entire crowd applauded gleefully as it was a new concept to most people out there. The steps were simple but the whole program was artistically choreographed. When I come across articles on Tai Chi these days it reminds me of my good old school days and what benefits I could have reaped right now if I had taken up the classes outside school hours and gone forward with learning this art form.
Originally concepted as a martial arts form Tai Chi is nowadays practiced for its health-promoting benefits. Tai Chi is rightly called as meditation on motion and the website www.firsteatright.com discusses more about this.
A Body-Mind Coordination
Classified as a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, Tai Chi requires using 50-58% of heart rate reserve, a clear focus and total concentration while practicing it. Only if these conditions are fulfilled the performing individual reaps 100% benefit of improved aerobic capacity, muscle strength, balance and motor control all of which add physical fitness to the body as well improved attention, decreased strength and anxiety as well as cardiovascular improvements that bring advantage to a person psychologically. There have been numerous studies highlighting the advantages of Tai Chi in aiding people with depression, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and brain injury. It’s been prescribed as the best exercise form for elderly population and for individuals who have never been into exercising until now and are interested in starting to do some physical activity. Studies have shown Tai Chi to help people over the age of 65 to reduce stress, improve posture, balance, mobility and muscle strength in the legs.
A recent study tried to find out Tai Chi’s influence on brain metabolism and muscle energetics in older adults using a brain-muscle magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) examination. The study group included participants who were more than 55 years of age, did not undergo any Tai Chi training in the past 12 months and were willing to participate in a 12-week training program. The MRS was used to measure brain and muscle chemistry using MRI machines in 6 elderly adults who were experiencing a 12-week Tai Chi training program. H- (brain) and P-(muscle) scans were performed in one session before and after training. Results showed increase in neuronal health of the brain and improved recovery rates of a metabolite that was involved in energy production in leg muscles. This shows that Tai Chi might have a positive effect on neuroplasticity and increased oxidative capacity of muscles in the leg. While all these make us happy the study size is extremely small and the scenario must be applied on a larger group to come to effective conclusions.
Tai Chi is one exercise form that can be practiced by anyone-right from young children to older adults and even those tied to their wheelchair. This is the best exercise form for people suffering from a disability. It is highly unlikely that practicing Tai Chi will bring about injury when practiced correctly. It is also gentle on the knees, joints and muscles which shows that it can even be done by people suffering from knee pain. It is necessary to enroll yourself with a good instructor and learn the art precisely before starting to practice it vigorously.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.