‘Do I need to bring a mat?’ asks Judy who is phoning to enquire about my Tai Chi Exercises classes. ‘No! Just bring yourself!’ I reply. ‘Oh! That is wonderful’ says Judy, ‘I have arthritic knees and I do struggle to get up and down off the floor’.
I think that one of the great things about Tai Chi and Qigong, is that all the exercises are performed in standing, although if required they can be adapted for sitting. The advantage of exercising in standing is that the anti-gravity muscles are strengthened. These muscles help to support our joints in an upright position, improve our posture and balance and reduce the risk of falling as we get older.
As we age these anti-gravity muscles tend to weaken and it is one of the reasons that older people are at a greater risk of falling. Falls are a major problem in the older person as they are more likely to suffer a serious injury such as a head injury or a hip fracture. Fracturing a hip, at its worst, for example can lead to complications, early mortality, and ending up in long term care. There is good news though and that is research (Cochrane 2012) has shown that practicing Tai Chi significantly reduces the risk of falling in older people.
While all forms of exercises are beneficial, exercise systems performed mostly in lying, such as Yoga and Pilates do not strengthen the anti-gravity muscles as the effect of gravity is removed.
So, if you have a patient with balance problems who requires exercise and struggles to get on and off the floor, or for medical reasons cannot get down on the floor on to a mat, then Tai Chi and Qigong is an excellent choice. Tai Chi Exercises really are for everyone