Tai Chi Fitness & Weight Loss Program

tai chi pose

Tai chi fitness and weight loss programs have proven to be very effective at producing sound physical and mental benefits for those who regularly participate. Tai chi is a Chinese martial arts program commonly used for medical reasons. Tai chi is often referred to as "meditation in motion". When most individuals hear the words "tai chi," they think of people positioning their arms and legs in various standing postures, which is definitely a part of the sequences. However, there is much more to the art of tai chi.

Originally used for self-defense up to 2,000 years ago, tai chi has taken off in the workout world. When tai chi is performed correctly, you will enjoy several overall improvements in health and mental well-being. Tai chi is considered a higher level of Qigong and can be described as a moving meditation technique.

Typical tai chi movements are performed at the individual's own pace and often referred to as tai chi chuan. Tai chi provides individuals with gentle stretches that allow for a slower-paced workout that can be performed by people of all ages.

There are several forms of tai chi that are practiced throughout the world. The various versions of tai chi will vary in the speed with which the steps are performed, and the strength that is required to perform them. However, all forms of tai chi focus on improving structural strength, increasing balance, coordination and flexibility, and centering and calming the mind. For individuals that wish to begin a tai chi fitness program, it is essential to determine the form in which they would like to participate, and thereafter locate an activity center that conducts classes of that form.

In general, there are three different types of tai chi. The first is known as Yang, which utilizes wider stances with the back foot at a 45-degree angle, a soft and gentle tempo and overall rounded movements. The second is Chen, which emphasizes lower stances, varying speed, power expressions and constant twisting. Lastly is Wu, which consists of higher stances, minimal arm movement and parallel feet. These movements are slow and deliberate.

Types of Movements

tai chi pose

Consisting of over 100 movements, tai chi allows individuals the ability to determine the exercises and movements that they prefer and thereafter, repeatedly practice and perfect them. This also allows individuals the ability to tailor their tai chi routine to their specific goals.

For those who wish to take a broader more in-depth approach to the practice of tai chi, they can regularly perform a larger number of movements that promote a greater range of motion across multiple joints. In addition, depending on the style of tai chi that you choose, the intensity will vary greatly. For example, you will find some forms of tai chi to be faster paced, though most forms will be performed at a slower pace suitable for almost everyone.

Breathing is also a large component of tai chi, as the movements will typically synchronize with your breathing pattern. It is always important to discuss the types of movements that you are going to perform with your medical physician before beginning a tai chi fitness routine, especially if you have suffered an injury or have joint problems.

In general, each sequence of movements in tai chi is an exercise in balance and coordination, physical control and the regulation of breathing. There are also forms of tai chi that focus on movements that are conducive to individuals that suffer from arthritis or diabetes. All tai chi movements, or series of movements, are designed to be fluid, flowing and circular.

Targeted Muscles

Regularly performing a tai chi fitness routine will exercise all major muscle groups. For this reason, tai chi will promote improvements in overall structural and core strength, producing a more toned and sculpted physique. Many of the sequences that are performed will require muscular endurance, as several of the movements are held for an extended period of time. In concert with the movements is the regulation of breathing. This approach promotes a synergy between mind and body that produces a sense of mental calming, centering and peacefulness.

Aerobic Effect

Most forms of tai chi will not produce an aerobic effect, meaning that the heart will not be elevated to its target heart rate and maintained for a minimum of 20 consecutive minutes. This is not the intent of tai chi. Instead, tai chi fitness programs focus on improving strength, enhancing muscular tone, increasing balance and coordination and calming the mind.

However, regularly performing tai chi will provide overall muscular tone and improve strength, balance and coordination. Coupled with a healthy, low-calorie, whole food diet, safe and effective weight loss can be achieved at a reasonable rate.

Required Equipment

There are really no firm equipment requirements for performing a tai chi fitness program. Items to consider include a pair of comfortable shoes, unrestrictive clothing and a water bottle to ensure that you stay hydrated.

If you would like to increase the intensity of each of your tai chi exercise sessions, you may want to consider purchasing a pair of wrist and ankle weights or a pair of dumbbells. By doing so, you will require your muscles to support a greater amount of weight during the movements, hence increasing your muscular strength at an even greater rate. Individuals that enjoy music while performing their exercise routine may want to consider purchasing an MP3 player. Since tai chi is a form of exercise that is calming to the mind, purchasing CD's containing meditative music may add to the overall enjoyment of the exercise session.


elderly tai chi class

When practiced regularly, a tai chi workout routine will provide several physical and mental benefits. In order to correctly perform tai chi, you must be able to smoothly transition from one movement to another and successfully hold each position for an extended period of time. Performing movements of this type will promote increases in muscular strength and tone.

Performing tai chi will also increase the range of motion in joints and can be excellent for individuals that have suffered an injury or have limited mobility. Regularly practicing tai chi will also improve core strength, as the core area of the body will play a large role in supporting the various movements.

One of the advantages of tai chi is that even if an individual has some type of medical disability, they can still participate. Additional benefits derived from regularly performing tai chi include improvements in coordination and flexibility and increases in energy and stamina.

Reducing stress is a another reason to practice tai chi. Tai chi brings together the mind and body in a similar fashion to yoga. Breathing techniques coupled with the various movements will help to induce a feeling of relaxation, stress relief and calmness.

Again, the slow movements and low impact of tai chi allow all ages to participate. While the benefits of tai chi from a scientific perspective have only recently begun analysis, preliminary results indicate that tai chi indeed offers more than relief of stress and anxiety. For example, initial studies are concluding that regularly performing tai chi may help to reduce blood pressure, minimize or slow down bone loss in women, decrease insomnia, assist with and reduce chronic pain and improve coordination and balance.

The Importance of an Instructor

While there is no special equipment or workout gear needed to participate in tai chi, it is important to find a knowledgeable instructor who will teach you the correct movements and techniques. By doing so, you will reap the full benefits associated with regularly performing a tai chi exercise program. If you are taking part in a tai chi exercise program for relief of an injury, you will want an instructor who will provide the correct and safest way for you to participate in the program. While it is possible to strain muscles or to lose your balance and fall when practicing tai chi, overall it is one of the safest forms of exercise.

It is recommended that you practice tai chi on a regular basis. Like virtually anything in life, the more you practice something the better you get at it. Tai chi is no different. By regularly practicing tai chi, you will not only begin to make it a part of your daily lifestyle, but you will become more successful at performing the movements and reaping the physical and mental benefits as well. Tai chi exercise routines can be performed in a relatively short period of time. In fact, if you find that you are caught in a stressful moment, there are specific movements that you can perform no matter where you are to help reduce your stress level immediately.

tai chi pose

At times, tai chi classes may be slightly difficult to find. However, many fitness centers and community centers are now offering tai chi classes on a regular basis. If you are unable to locate a fitness or community center that offers tai chi classes, try calling your local township or community center as they may be able to direct you to an organization that offers tai chi classes.

Many senior citizen homes are also aware of tai chi programs in the community. There are also at-home DVD/VHS classes that can be purchased and performed in the comfort of your own home.

Tai chi is an excellent addition to anyone's exercise routine, and offers several physical and mental benefits. However, from a weight loss perspective, tai chi will not burn a high number of calories per workout session. This being said, for individuals that are looking for the best exercise types for weight loss, it is best to ensure that you participate in an aerobic activity that promotes a high rate of caloric expenditure. Aerobic exercise types of this nature include aerobics classes, running, biking and swimming.