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Battling Stress with Tai Chi

Posted Dec 07 2009 12:00am

Emotional wellness is one of the hardest things to control in life. Although we have choices in what directions we take and how we are going to deal with problems that confront us, there are still an endless number of stressors that present themselves from day to day. Some are merely annoying; some are daunting.

Nonetheless, keeping stress at a minimum is especially important for those of us with diabetes. There are many ways to do that – talking to friends, relaxation exercises and meditation, finding creative outlets to redirect our attention for a time, walking – another I have come upon is tai chi.

According to the Harvard Medical school, there are many physical, mental and emotional benefits to practicing tai chi.

Tai chi has been described as “meditation in motion”. It is a mind-body practice that is easy to learn and can be taken up even by those who have not exercised for a quite a while.

Because it helps with muscle strength, flexibility and balance it is an all-round beneficial practice. Studies have shown increased ability in all the following areas in older people:

Arthritis. An hour of tai chi twice a week for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved mood and physical functioning more than standard stretching exercises in people with severe knee osteoarthritis.

Low bone density. Tai chi appears to be a safe and effective way to maintain bone density in postmenopausal women.

Breast cancer. In women suffering from breast cancer or the side effects of treatment, tai chi may help improve quality of life and functional capacity.

Heart disease. In one study, tai chi significantly boosted exercise capacity, lowered blood pressure, and improved levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, and C-reactive protein in people at high risk for heart disease.

Parkinson’s disease. A group of study participants with mild to moderately severe Parkinson’s disease showed improved balance, walking ability, and overall well-being after 20 tai chi sessions.

Any kind of physical activity helps reduce stress. The calm, steady movements of tai chi along with the mental focus needed while doing it help to relax the body and mind - many benefits from one ancient practice.

Sources: MedBroadcast, Harvard Health Publications - Harvard Medical School
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