Exercise of the Month: Tai Chi

What is tai chi?

Tai chi is an ancient, Chinese martial art form that is practiced around the world as a type of gentle exercise. It involves smooth, flowing movements to help improve the flow of life energy, or Qi (pronounced ‘chee’), through your body. This is said to help create a sense of relaxation and improve or maintain health.

Are there different types of tai chi?

There are many styles of tai chi and there can be great differences between each type. However most forms of tai chi involve slow, controlled movements and postures which are suitable for people with arthritis.

What are the benefits of tai chi?

In general, tai chi has been shown to:

  • decrease stress
  • increase muscle strength in the lower body
  • improve balance and
  • improve posture

Studies show that tai chi can help reduce pain and stiffness felt by people with arthritis. The movements gently exercise most of the muscles and joints throughout the body and can improve your flexibility and ability to move. Practising tai chi may also help you to relax and improve your sense of wellbeing, which is also important in helping you deal with pain.

Who can do tai chi?

Tai chi can be suitable for people with arthritis of any age and fitness level if:

  • The form of tai chi involves slow, gentle movements that are suitable for people with arthritis
  • You can work at your own level and pace during the class
  • You learn from a qualified instructor who understands arthritis – ensures the movements are safe for you and your ability – shows you how to change or adapt the movements if they are causing pain or discomfort.

What should I look for in a class?

It is important to find a qualified instructor who understands arthritis and how to make the class safe for you. Before you start, ask if the style of tai chi being taught in the class is suitable for people with your condition, ability and fitness level. Depending on where you live, you may be able to join a class specifically for people with arthritis.

How often will I need to practice?

If you join a tai chi class you should aim to attend once or twice a week and practise one or two movements for about 10 to 30 minutes per day. If you learn at home you can set your own pace. Either way you should gradually build up your practice sessions and aim for about 30 minutes on most days.

Please note: Please consult with your doctor or healthcare professional before commencing any new types of exercise. This information does not replace individual medical advice.