Whether it stems from working in a highly digitized world, living in an increasingly toxic environment, battling disease or another logical cause, fatigue is consistently cited as one of the most frequently encountered health complaints. While there are about as many ways to approach fatigue as there are reasons for its presence, the ancient Chinese practice of Tai Chi represents a safe and effective solution.
About Tai Chi
Tai Chi is a slow-motion, low-intensity, moving meditative exercise designed to increase one’s longevity. Its value is well-known within the Chinese culture, as an early morning visit to a park in modern day China reveals hundreds to thousands of people of all ages practicing Tai Chi.
There are three distinct purposes for this exercise:
- Relaxation – Performed in a meditative state, Tai Chi practice promotes mental clarity and spiritual connectivity.
- Health – Because it assists with balance and fosters the healthful circulation of energy and blood, Tai Chi has many health benefits.
- Self-Defense – Developed as a martial art, Tai Chi’s self-defense component focuses on neutralizing an opponent’s use of force before any countering force is applied.
Tai Chi emphasizes proper body shapes for the transmission of energy, achieving focus and mastering breath control. While these shapes were developed with the express purpose of prevailing in combat in an efficient, scientific manner, their benefits far exceed self-defense. Often described as meditation in motion, some of Tai Chi’s health benefits can be explained by how it differs from most other types of exercise. In Tai Chi:
- The movements are never forced.
- The muscles are relaxed rather than tensed.
- The joints are not fully extended or bent.
- Connective tissues are not stretched.
Instead, the body moves fluidly through a sequence of deliberate movements that sometimes are described as physical poetry. Best of all, Tai Chi can be easily adapted for anyone, from seasoned athletes, those confined to wheelchairs and even individuals recovering from surgery. Although Tai Chi is slow and gentle and doesn’t leave you breathless, it addresses the key components of fitness – muscle strength, flexibility, balance and aerobic conditioning.
Why it Helps Fatigue
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), chi means life energy. TCM teaches that chi moves throughout the body, keeping you vital and healthy. Problems with the flow of chi are linked to illness, and TCM practitioners believe that restoring its proper flow will bring about good health. In addition to acupuncture’s ability to restore chi flow, Tai Chi also facilitates the healthful circulation of chi.
Fatigue can be caused by stress, anxiety, medication, poor nutrition, dehydration or a more serious underlying condition. However, a lack of exercise and lack of sleep are the two main reasons people are tired. Because it provides exercise and helps people sleep well, Tai Chi represents an ideal solution.
- According to a University of Georgia study on fatigued, sedentary individuals, researchers found that low-intensity exercise results in a dramatic increase in energy levels.
- According to the American Medical Association, exercise improves sleep quality and decreases fatigue.
- Based on a study published in the July 2004 edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Tai Chi results in positive changes in cancer-related fatigue and quality of life in women with breast cancer, much more than supportive therapy alone.
- Researchers from the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology in Los Angeles have reported that Tai Chi improves sleep quality in older adults.
Regardless of fitness level, learning the art of Tai Chi could be the most valuable step you take for reducing fatigue. Besides learning an ancient martial art and achieving relaxation, making Tai Chi your daily practice is a safe, effective way for restoring vitality.