It’s pretty well-known that exercise is one of the best ways to curb stress and boost your mood. (Just think about how relaxed and happy you feel after a yoga class, kickboxing session or run in the park.)
In fact, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, participants, who all had anxiety associated with chronic illnesses, significantly reduced their worry when they exercised regularly for a period of three to 12 weeks. Fitness sessions lasting over 30 minutes had the biggest effects on anxiety.
Tai Chi: The Major Stress-Reliever You Didn’t Know You Needed
Pinterest picked tai chi as one of its top 100 trends for 2018.
One of the best — yet most underrated — exercises for stress relief (and your health overall) is tai chi. If you’ve ever seen a group of people moving slowly and gracefully together at your local park, there’s a good chance they’re practicing tai chi, which combines low impact movements and meditation for a body-mind workout. Pinterest picked tai chi as one of its top 100 trends for 2018, so it’s safe to say it won’t be flying under the radar for much longer.
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that has been practiced for about 2,000 years, says Dee Ogilvy, who has practiced it for more than 20 years herself and now runs her own tai chi program, while also teaching it as a part of Missouri State University’s Employee Wellness Program.
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Tai chi was originally developed for self-defense, says Aideen Turner, physical therapist and CEO of Virtual Physical Therapists, but it’s evolved into “a gentle way of moving and stretching,” says Turner. “Positions flow into the next without a pause so that the body is in constant motion. It’s very low impact and causes minimal stress on muscles and joints.” Deep breathing is also an important part of tai chi, she adds.
Turner says the majority of people who practice tai chi are seniors — you lose flexibility and balance as you get older, and tai chi is a way to get moving again without pounding on your joints. That being said, it’s something someone of all ages can benefit from doing, says Turner. Especially if you're someone who is pounding the pavement training for a race or frequently partaking in high-intensity workouts — slowing down and reconnecting through tai chi may be a welcomed addition to your routine (and break on your joints).
In a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that participants who practiced tai chi regularly had a decreased rate of mortality, similar to the effects seen from walking and jogging in other studies. Those who exercised for five to six hours a week saw the biggest benefits.
That’s far from the only scientific evidence to sypport the benefits of tai chi. A study published in the Journal of Rheumatology found that patients with osteoarthritis improved their symptoms and balance after practicing tai chi for 12 weeks. Another study, published in PLoS One, found that tai chi helped improve cardio function in otherwise healthy adults.