Have You Tried Tai Chi for Heart Health?

tai chi for heart health
People practicing tai chi in the park in the summertime

Reducing stress can go a long way in protecting your heart and improving your overall health. This may be common knowledge, and yet many people struggle to manage their stress. Your physical fitness routine plays a key role. You might think of yoga or intense cardio like cycling, but have you considered tai chi for heart health?

Tai chi may not be a practice people automatically associate with physical fitness routines. However, it is shown to lower stress, calm the mind, and protect your heart. It’s simple and safe for just about anyone.


What is Tai Chi?

If you’ve seen groups of people in public parks conducting a series of slow, deliberate movements that don’t quite look like yoga, they may have been practicing tai chi.

Beginners Tai Chi explains the program of movements. Tai chi is a series of gentle movements that are meant to help practitioners connect with their energy and increase their life force.

The Tai Chi for Health Institute notes that there is not just one style of tai chi but many. Those include Chen, Yang, Wu, and Sun. While the styles and movements differ, the basic principles remain the same, as the institute explains:

“The essential principles include mind integrated with the body; control of movements and breathing; generating internal energy, mindfulness, song and jing. The ultimate purpose of tai chi is to cultivate the qi, or life energy within us to flow smoothly and powerfully. Total harmony of the inner and outer comes from the integration of the mind and body, empowered through healthy qi, through the practice of tai chi.”


How Does Tai Chi Help the Heart?

Because it’s not a vigorous form of exercise, the slower, relaxed movements are a great addition to a cardiac care routine. It can stretch and strengthen muscles, joints and connective tissues, helps people to breathe better, and may even give them more energy. But just because it doesn’t make you drip sweat doesn’t mean your heart isn’t reaping the rewards.

Even if you don’t currently have a cardiac condition, taking care of your heart is central to overall good health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC. 610,000 people die every year from heart disease. The American Heart Association adds that you’re never too young to start caring for your heart. They list stress management, a key benefit of tai chi, among the most important steps anyone should take to protect their heart health.


Patients with Existing Cardiac Conditions

Harvard University’s August 2015 Heart Health Letter explained many of the qualities of a tai chi program that make it a great option for patients living with cardiac conditions.

“Tai chi is a gentle, easily adaptable exercise that integrates physical activity, breath awareness, and a variety of cognitive skills that include focused attention and imagery,” says Peter Wayne, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi.

It is a slow, controlled series of movements, but unlike in yoga, muscles and joints are never fully stretched. It doesn’t require settling on the floor, which is great for cardiac patients who may have mobility issues. And, the upper and lower body movements strengthen the muscles and the heart, improving stamina. Tai chi may also help reduce blood pressure and shortness of breath, which heart attack survivors often experience.

The American College of Cardiology reported in 2017 that tai chi could benefit the 60% of cardiac patients who decline to participate in cardiac rehabilitation programs. For nine months, researchers followed more than two dozen cardiac patients who were generally inactive as they participated in a tai chi program that lasted six months. They found that participants who did tai chi three times a week for three months and then participated in a three-month maintenance program were significantly more active, lost more weight and reported better quality of life, compared to those who did tai chi twice a week for three months.


Give Tai Chi a Try

Reducing your risk of heart attack is something that everyone should aim for, not only to improve their health… but their quality of life. Many are choosing tai chi for heart health. Start with an internet search to see who offers classes in your area. Then try something new that you just might love–with all your heart.

If you want guidance in creating an overall healthful lifestyle, feel free to contact me to schedule a telemedicine consultation or office consultation at our Integrative Medical Center in Metamora, Indiana. I will be glad to help you.


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