Tai Chi, the ancient Chinese discipline, could actually serve as a complete fitness program, since its graceful, fluid movements manage to combine the three forms of exercise: strength training, stretching, and aerobic exercise.
Several studies have shown that tai chi helps people improve or maintain strength, joint flexibility, and balance, and can also boost aerobic capacity. But in addition, tai chi promotes a sense of well-being and relaxation.
Tai chi consists of a series of movements, known as forms, that resemble ballet in slow motion. As you perform these movements, you concentrate intently on both the motion and your breathing. The combination of these movements provides a workout for all the limbs and muscles. And since tai chi is gentle and low-impact, it’s ideally suited for people with arthritis or other conditions that make exercise difficult.
Tai chi classes may be offered by your local Y or by health clubs, martial-arts schools, and community centers. You can also buy or rent videos that instruct you in tai chi.
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