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Tai chi: Workout for the mind and body

Your doctor may have recommended physical activity to keep you vigorous, but these days you may find that climbing a flight of stairs is challenging. How, then, can you get your daily dose of exercise?

Fortunately, at least one physical activity is slow enough to suit most people’s abilities while providing proven health benefits—tai chi.

This graceful Chinese exercise technique promotes harmony between the body and its environment. According to recent studies, tai chi helps reduce high blood pressure without raising heart rate, boosts circulation and improves balance and coordination.

What is it?

Tai chi involves a series of forms, or postures, that flow from one to the other in a slow, smooth, dance-like movement. The aim is for relaxed muscle control, not muscle strength.

Unlike yoga, tai chi doesn’t require a high degree of flexibility.

The benefits

Because tai chi teaches people how to make their movements more deliberate, a safer, more measured walking pace often results. In fact, researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine found that seniors who practiced the low-impact technique cut their risk of falling nearly in half.

Try it yourself

If your doctor agrees that tai chi is a good idea for you, check your community center, the Y or a nearby health club for a class that fits your activity level. Or pick up an instructional tape at your video store. Make sure you watch (and listen!) to the tape thoroughly before you try any of the movements. To get the best benefit, practice tai chi at least three times a week.