Many younger adults think arthritis is a chronic but not very serious condition older adults live with. The truth is it can be a debilitating disease for people of all ages. This degenerative disease is caused by abnormal wearing down of the cartilage that cushions joints in the body. The pain it inflicts on damaged joints can be quite severe.

While there are prescription medications that can help, the side effects of these drugs aren’t clear. It may make seniors reluctant to take them, especially on a longer term basis.

Newer research that is garnering more attention for its effectiveness at treating the symptoms of arthritis is the ancient Chinese exercise known as Tai chi. Because a Michigan winter can be tough for people with arthritis, we thought the older adults who read our blog would be interested in learning more.

What is Tai Chi?

Many people have heard of Tai chi or noticed people practicing it in a local park, but aren’t quite sure what it is. This ancient Chinese practice is a graceful form of exercise and stretching. It uses a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner. Deep breathing is an important element of Tai chi.

Each movement flows seamlessly in to the next one without pause. This keeps the body in constant motion. People new to this form of exercise are surprised at how much strength and stamina they can build from faithfully practicing it.

Tai Chi as a Treatment for Arthritis Pain and Symptoms

Because Tai chi is low impact, it puts little stress on muscles and joints. This is why it is considered to safe for people of all ages and fitness levels, including those who live with osteoarthritis.

Researchers at Tufts Medical Center in Boston looked at the role Tai Chi can play in treating the pain and symptoms of arthritis. Their study was made up of 40 adults age 55 and older who reported knee problems due to osteoarthritis. Participants were divided into two groups:

  • One group practiced Yang-style tai chi
  • The control group received wellness education and completed stretching exercises.

After 12 weeks, the group that practiced Tai chi reported a significant improvement in knee pain and increased function when compared to the control group.

How to Begin Practicing Tai Chi

As is true of any new form of exercise, the first step is to speak with your physician to gain their insight and approval. Once they’ve given you the green light to get started, there are a variety of options.

  • Call the Michigan senior center nearest you or your local fitness center. Many offer classes on a regular basis.
  • The Arthritis Foundation has a list of Tai chi DVDs that you can order. They range from spine stretches to shoulder and neck exercises.
  • Search a platform like You Tube or Vimeo for free videos you can watch and learn. This might be a good way for a beginner to get started without spending any money.

Wellness programs like Tai chi are a part of daily life at Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan. We extend an open invitation for you to visit us and learn more about our commitment to keeping the older adults who call our communities “home,” healthy and thriving.


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