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Need a Brain Tune-Up? Try Tai Chi

By Sandy Schroeder

In the past, scientists believed new brain cells could not be generated, but now research says the brain can change throughout life and exercise can help us make new connections. If you often feel you could use some brain sharpening, especially at the end of the day, tai chi may have some answers.

Tai chi is already well known for its ability to help people stay flexible, lift spirits, improve balance, and move more smoothly when dealing with injuries or pain. Now it may help you on the job.

Executive Skills

In a review of 20-some studies on tai chi, researchers found tai chi helps improve a range of executive functions, including the ability to multitask, make decisions and manage time.

Tai chi can also be a help for people with mild cognitive impairment, slowing down the progression of dementia.

How Tai Chi Brings It Together

Tai chi focuses on the whole body to exercise the upper and lower body, right and left side, arms, legs and core with a flow of integrated movements. Classes are often taught outdoors with participants standing and following the instructor's succession of swaying movements.

I enjoyed a weekly tai chi class in a local park, and it was the highlight of my day. Standing in a grove of trees enjoying the sunlight and the breeze, the class spent an hour shifting from one foot to the other, and swaying through a stream of movements. Everybody left smiling and showed up for every class.

Some of Tai Chi's Many Benefits

Tai chi covers all of the bases.

  • Posture and alignment are improved
  • Better balance helps avoid falls
  • Stress is siphoned away
  • Painful joints find relief
  • People with sore knees move better

Here's How It Works

Harvard Health endorses tai chi and outlines some of the key parts.

Beginning warm-up - Class may begin with simple motions such as shoulder circles, moving the head from side to side or rocking back and forth to loosen the muscles and become centered.

Exploring tai chi forms - Short forms with smaller, slower movements are usually used for beginners. Advanced classes work on long forms that may include hundreds of different movements.

Qigong breath work - Throughout the class, gentle breathing will be combined with the swaying movements to relax the mind and activate the body's energy.

If tai chi appeals to you, look for local groups in your community to observe a class, or follow a class online. I predict if you try a class you will be hooked. It is so easy to do and the benefits work for mind, body and spirit.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Upland, Calif.

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