Tai chi: getting there more slowly, but gracefully and intact

Mon Jun 17, 2013 2:17am EDT
 
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - For modern, harried lifestyles focused on getting and spending, fitness experts say tai chi, the ancient Chinese slow-moving exercise, can be an ideal way for anyone to stay fit.

A staple in senior citizen centers and a common dawn sighting in public parks, the practice can offer long-term benefits for all age groups.

"In this high-tech world that's all about speed, greed and instant gratification, tai chi is the antidote to bring us back to balanced health," according to Arthur Rosenfeld, a tai chi master and the author of a new book called "Tai Chi — The Perfect Exercise: Finding Health, Happiness, Balance, and Strength."

"It doesn't mean you can win the marathon or clean and jerk 750 pounds or win a cycle sprint," said the South Florida resident, 56. "It's not about getting there sooner." Tai chi is more about how the body works than how it looks, and is about aging gracefully and "with less drama."

"The last time I looked, there were some 500 studies about the various physical benefits of tai chi, from improving balance and attention span to boosting the immune system to beating back the symptoms of arthritis, asthma and insomnia," said Rosenfeld.

An estimated 2.3 million U.S. adults have done tai chi in the past 12 months, according to a 2007 National Health Interview Survey.

The practice is not perfect. Tai chi "does not supply the cardiovascular component that we'd be looking for in a well-rounded routine," said Jessica Matthews, a San Diego, California-based exercise physiologist. "The exertion level, while challenging, is not going to increase your heart rate."

'GRAND ULTIMATE MOTION'   Continued...

 
People practise tai chi, a Chinese martial art, during morning exercises at Longtan Park in Beijing in this September 13, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Grace Liang/Files