This post originally appeared on Wisconsin Tai Chi Academy’s blog and is reproduced with permission.
If there’s one thing I’ve often thought to myself in over 20 years of practicing Tai Chi, it’s: “why didn’t I start doing this 20 years earlier?”
The idea that Tai Chi is “just for old people” most likely evolved because it is often promoted as a safe, gentle and effective form of exercise, especially for those with age-related changes to their health: arthritis, impaired balance, decreased mobility; “old people”. While Tai Chi and Qigong have been proven to have great benefits and be effective for older people, the same can be said for people in all age groups. In fact, the benefits gained from practicing Tai Chi and Qigong from a younger age can help decrease the risk and/or severity of age-related health changes later in life.
Tai Chi is a martial art – taijiquan – and under proper instruction is as much a form of exercise as any other martial art. Though often (though not always) practiced slowly to focus on the internal aspects of the art, each form in Tai Chi still has self-defense application, and these can be applied to real-life encounters. Some styles of Tai Chi can be quite physically demanding; my Master often stated that traditionally instruction in certain Chen forms would not be commenced once a person reached middle age due to their physical demands.
Tai Chi and Qigong practice can offer people of all ages many benefits, including:
- increased strength and flexibility;
- improved balance, coordination, proprioception (awareness of body position) and spatial awareness (your body’s position in relation to your surroundings);
- improved cardiopulmonary, neurological and immune system function;
- enhanced mindfulness, attention, and concentration/focus;
- encourages commitment, self-awareness and self-discipline.
We need to dispel the idea that Tai Chi is only for “old people” and therefore can or should only be practiced in the later stages of life. Tai Chi is not only suitable for people of all ages, it is one of the few forms of exercise that can be continuously practiced throughout the lifespan, and whose benefits later in life are only enhanced by commencing as early in life as possible.