The gentle movement of tai chi that is widely practiced in China has gained popularity in the United States for its many health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, the art of tai chi that was originally developed for self-defense, may help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, improve mood, increase energy and stamina, and improve balance and flexibility.
Tia chi can also help medical conditions such as lowering blood pressure, improving joint pain, enhancing the immune system and reducing the risk of falls in older people. Now, experts at Harvard Medical School say that the sequences of long, flowing upper and lower body movements may benefit people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases or COPD.
A study by Australian researchers at Concord Repatriation General Hospital and University of Sydney found that people with COPD could walk longer distances and reported a better quality of life after practicing tai chi for 12 weeks, according to WebMD.
The study participants who practiced tai chi were also notably steadier on their feet than the people with COPD who did not follow the exercises.
“Impairment in balance and lower limb muscle strength are common in people with COPD and are some of the risk factors for falls,” wrote the researchers. They also noted that the group who took tai chi were noticeably less anxious and had a greater sense of wellbeing than the others in the study.
Statistics show that approximately 27 million in the U.S. suffer from COPD, and about half of these remain undiagnosed.
Harvard experts say that the movements of tai chi safely and gradually strengthen the heart and major muscles groups. The deep breathing taught in the practice enhances oxygen intake which helps with the breathlessness of COPD.
Most community and senior centers offer tai chi classes which normally cost $15 to $20 per class. You may also find classes online and some of them are free and can be done via Zoom so you can ask questions during the session. You can find a list of the best online classes here.
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