At Homestead Village, we know how important a healthy body is for living your retirement life to the fullest. Just because you’re retired, it doesn’t mean you should keep yourself from doing anything active in your free time. In fact, now is the perfect time to start moving! We offer several healthy activities that you can choose from when living in our community, but one of our favorites is our tai chi classes.
In a study published by the Journal of Alzeheimer’s Disease, a clinical trial proved that tai chi exercises increase the size of the brain and enhances memory functions in older adults. This Chinese martial art—sometimes referred to as “meditation in motion”—is made up of a series of graceful movements that transition together smoothly. These movements, combined with a relaxing atmosphere, have several different health benefits for mature adults.
With tai chi exercises, you won’t be lifting weights or exhausting yourself, but you will still be training your muscles with specific activities. The slow and gentle movements of tai chi offer a wide range of motion that, over time, increase your strength and flexibility. Your upper body, lower body, and core muscles are all used in this form of exercise. All of these muscle-strengthening movements can help older adults maintain control of their bodies as moving may otherwise become more difficult over time.
With increased strength, also comes an increase in flexibility and a range of motion. One of the benefits of tai chi is that while you do these slow, fluid movements, you’re utilizing muscles you don’t typically use. Over time, that will train your muscles and increase your flexibility, which is a benefit at any age.
Balance is an especially important benefit of tai chi exercises, especially as you get older. For most aging adults, a lack of movement will decrease muscle function, which can cause balance issues as time goes on. Balance is necessary to avoid fall-related injuries and to keep your body safe. The more you practice tai chi and gain those muscles, the more control you’ll have over your balance.
If you have arthritis or are beginning to experience symptoms of arthritis, you already know how painful it can be to make even some of the smallest movements. Tai chi is one of the low impact exercises that can help decrease your arthritis symptoms without causing you more pain. By increasing your muscle strength, you’ll be protecting your joints which will help reduce the pain. In addition, the slow, fluid movements will help you to get rid of some of that stiffness that arthritis typically causes.
Mental health is just as important as your physical health and luckily, tai chi helps improve both! Too much mental stress can cause physical pain, but another benefit of tai chi is that the slow movements are great for helping you relax. Tai chi incorporates those slow movements with focused breathing and meditation, relaxing the mind and body into a low-stress state that is perfect for your Life Plan Community lifestyle.
If you haven’t tried tai chi yet, Homestead Village wants to alleviate your worries or concerns. Our tai chi classes are designed to help keep you active without adding stress to your mind or body. Here are a few of the movements or tai chi exercises you may see if you join our classes:
Touch the Sky: This exercise is great for beginners and can even be done sitting down. To properly utilize this technique, you’ll want to put your hands in your lap with your palms facing upward and your fingertips pointing together. Inhale slowly, and as you do so, raise your hands in front of you to chest level, then turn your palms outward as your hands reach above your head. Keep your elbows relaxed and don’t stretch too far. Finally, exhale slowly and let your arms relax slowly to your sides and return to the starting position. Repeat a few more times.
Shooting the Bow: Another easy exercise is called “Shooting the Bow,” which will require you to stand with your feet slightly apart and your arms relaxed at your sides. Bend your knees slightly and bring your balled fists close to your face with your palms facing you, and the ends of your fists touching. While maintaining your slow breathing, rotate your waist on an inhale so you’re facing left. Extend your left fist in front of you like you’re shooting a bow before opening your palm to face outward. At the same time as you’re doing this motion, take your right hand and pull it back slightly like you’re pulling the string of your bow. Exhale slowly and bring your arms back in to their starting position. Now do the same motion with the opposite arm and repeat for as long as is comfortable.
Windmill: Perfect for improving your flexibility, the “Windmill” move requires you to stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Take your hands and put them in front of your body with your fingers facing downward toward the floor. As you inhale, bring your arms upward toward the center of your body, and eventually over your head. Stretch as much as is comfortable toward the ceiling while slightly arching your spine backward. When you exhale, do so slowly and bend your back toward the floor as your hands move down. Keep bending forward and let your arms hang in front of you loosely before inhaling and returning to your starting position.
If you’re looking to jumpstart your healthy lifestyle, visit Homestead Village to learn more about the wellness opportunities that will help you thrive where you are. For any current residents, our Friday tai chi classes are held from 9:30 to 10:15 a.m. in the Glasford Room. The 12-week series costs $100 and will be added to your statement. Contact us today for more details on the class or to find a fitness program that works for you!