Tai Chi For Heart Health

Tai Chi For Heart Health

Tai Chi has aerobic benefits as well as improving your flexibility and balance. Because it does not involve a huge amount of frenetic activity, it has the potential to be one of the aerobic activities of choice in people who are at risk for heart disease or who have already had a heart attack.  It is an exercise you can do at any age and whether or not you are already in good physical condition.

The art and exercise of Tai Chi involves going through a series of motion, deep breathing with a meditative approach. You breathe deeply during these exercises, allowing fresh, oxygenated blood to reach and nourish the heart.  At the same time, you are focusing your mind on your breathing and on the various motions, which calms the mind and relieves everyday stress—something your heart very badly needs.

Tai Chi is usually done standing up; however, if you are confined to a wheelchair, the activities can be modified to suit your needs. It is also good for people recovering from surgery, including heart surgery.

Benefits Of Tai Chi To Your Heart Include The Following:

•    It allows for oxygenated blood to nourish your muscles and your heart
•    According to a study conducted by National Taiwan University in 2008, 53 people who were at risk for heart disease engaged in a year of Tai Chi. The results showed that these subjects had improved levels of C-reactive protein, which is linked to cardiovascular disease, cholesterol, insulin, and triglycerides. They also had lower blood pressure that greatly contributes to heart attack. The control group showed no signs of improvement in health.
•    It involves no jarring motions so it is good for people recovering from heart surgery.
•    It relieves stress—a contributing factor to heart disease and something that can make heart disease worse.
•    It can be done even when you are not physically fit or are confined to a wheelchair
•    It gradually and gently strengthens the heart through gentle aerobic exercise
In Tai Chi, you do motions with relaxed muscles and with joints that are neither stretched out nor extremely contracted so, if you have arthritis, it is easy on your joints as well.
You don’t need to understand exactly how Tai Chi works nor do you need to understand more than the basics of qi energy and the function of the yin and yang in Tai Chi exercise.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, qi energy is an energy force that moves through your body through “highways” called meridians. Tai Chi allows this flow to occur more easily, affecting all your organs, including your heart. Tai Chi balances the opposite elements of yin and yang so your body is in balance as well, which is always a positive for overall health and wellness.

What Is A Tai Chi Class Like?

During a Tai Chi session, you begin by warming up with gentle exercises, such as rolling and stretching your shoulders and neck, putting you in the mind set to exercise. This is also the time to get in better contact with your breath, and to focus your mind on breathing and exercise.

There are short forms of tai chi, in which you go through a series of 10-12 motions or 24 forms during the entire session. In long forms of Tai Chi lessons, you have hundreds of motions to choose from and you can do as many as you like.

If you are in poor health or recovering from heart surgery, it is best to begin with the short form of the exercise. If you feel that Tai Chi is too challenging, you can practice a related form of exercise called qi dong, which can be done in a standing, sitting or lying position.  Of course, you should always check with your doctor before starting Tai Chi or any other form of exercise.

If you have a bad heart or are at risk for heart disease, it is better to learn Tai Chi sooner rather than when you are recovering from heart surgery or a heart attack. That way, you will already know the skill involved in doing Tai Chi before your heart becomes worse. If in doubt, talk to your doctor to see whether you are able to perform tai chi.

Rarely, you might have a serious musculoskeletal condition or have problems with dizziness when standing or trying to balance and your doctor will recommend even milder forms of exercise or suggest that you try the short form of Tai Chi in the beginning.

It doesn’t hurt to first observe a Tai Chi class so you can see whether or not it is a good fit for you before investing the cost and time into doing the class yourself. Speak with the instructor of the class to make sure he or she is experienced in the practice of tai chi, especially in regard to teaching patients with heart conditions. If it seems that Tai Chi will help you, sign up to the class, wear comfortable clothing and be prepared to exercise and get better!