There are many types of exercise that are scientifically proven to reduce stress, but one of the most effective actually comes from martial arts. Tai Chi Chuan, popularly known as Tai Chi, is an ancient form of Chinese martial arts that has developed far beyond its original use for combat. Using carefully structured movements and breathing techniques, tai chi has a wide range of physical and psychological benefits through regular practice.

Tai Chi’s Benefits

Practitioners of tai chi have reported so many different perks from their exercise that science is still catching up with verifying each. The best benefits that have been confirmed thus far are lower blood pressure, improved blood circulation, reduced chance of stroke and cancer, and general stress relief. The causes for these improvements are hard to pin down, but generally speaking, Tai Chi is both a form of meditation and muscle therapy. Combining the psychological peace of deep breathing techniques with an overall boost to your health creates a nuanced series of improvements within your body.

How it Works

The two aspects of Tai Chi that make it a holistic form of exercise are the controlled motions and their corresponding breathing exercises. Participants are often instructed in an outdoor environment to stress the connection between a natural state and the exercise. An instructor will lead students through a series of motions and poses that require focusing on the body’s center of gravity. Most poses require light but constant muscle work in the legs and arms. One series of motions might require the participant to squat while oscillating their arms through a set of punches or pushes. During each motion, there is a careful consideration of inhaling and exhaling, which is crucial for harnessing the “qi” or energy of each movement. With regular practice, students can choose their own routines and develop a finer understanding of the unique advantages to each movement.

How to Start Tai Chi

Tai Chi Chuan is becoming increasingly popular as aging baby-boomers and Millenials have begun seeking out alternative forms of exercise. Introductory classes for Tai Chi beginners are offered in many types of fitness centers and health clubs. There are also smaller organizations that specialize in the spiritual practice. These specialized schools will be a better place for beginners, as they will be able to provide extra resources and answer almost any question with certainty. As a painless way to add years to your life, Tai Chi has hundreds of benefits with almost no drawbacks.