Tai Chi for Your Heart

by Mackenzie M. | March 21st, 2013 | Cardio, Outdoor

backyardWhen one takes an early morning stroll past public parks in China and Taiwan, it is commonplace to see large groups of older citizens performing their ritual exercise of tai chi. This centuries old mind body exercise has been used by Chinese citizens of all ages to increase strength and mental capacity. It focuses on the basic components of muscle strength, flexibility, and balance. However, tai chi is also referred to as a spiritual exercise that puts the participant in tune with their natural environment.

In the United States, many health professionals have adapted tai chi as not only a muscle building exercise, but also an exercise that is great for cardio health. To get in shape and to get in touch with nature this spring, try out the ancient Chinese tradition of tai chi with a cardio kick!

The exact history of tai chi is not fully known, but many Chinese academics explain that it is intertwined with traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy. In Chinese traditional medicine, yin and yang (the opposites) must come together to create a dynamic movement. Practicing tai chi moves the chi within the blood and the various sinews of the human body. This movement supposedly balances one’s health. Tai chi is often considered a soft art form for both its physical and mental health benefits. While the health benefits are still under investigation, studies support that tai chi can help people with various ailments. This gentle exercise can also support cardio respiratory functions and reduce overall blood pressure. Basically, tai chi is a great health exercise for the aged, weak, or for those who simply do not like regular cardio exercise.

To complete tai chi, the first step is to find a calm and relaxing outdoor location. Many people prefer a quiet backyard or a beautiful park. The next step is to put your feet shoulder width apart and take a deep, fulfilling breath. Let your head roll around clockwise and then repeat the motion. Calmly raise the shoulders and exhale another deep breath. There are several ways to complete the next steps. Some like to raise their hands in a ‘painting the wall’ motion. Simply raise the arms to the head height and lower your hands, leaving the fingers in an upright position as if painting. One can also raise their hands in a ‘swimming on land’ motion in the form of a breaststroke.

Hip circles, back bends, and side bends can also contribute to the exercise. There are several more complicated tai chi moves, but these are also dozens of beginning moves to master. Even the simplest tai chi will get the blood flowing to bones and muscles and will morph the mind into a state of meditation. In some studies, tai chi has been proven to be equally effective as aerobic exercise in reducing blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health. Not only will this exercise allow you to soak up the beautiful weather outside, it can also greatly improve your cardiovascular health if done on a regular basis.

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.