Tai Chi is short for T’ai Chi Ch’uan. It is an ancient form of slow, internal martial arts that is practiced alone or in a group. It requires meditative movements that look like a slow motion form of karate. Incorporating large muscle groups as well as small peripheral muscles, tai chi requires intense concentration and extreme balancing techniques. Many Western scientific studies have been done to determine the benefits of tai chi resulting in some impressive statistics that include improvement of osteoarthritris, fibromyalgia, diabetes, cholesterol, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and weight loss.
Tai Chi for Weight Loss
Because tai chi requires specific balancing of the body’s muscle groups, the calorie burning capability is high. To engage muscles in a slow, methodic way requires deep energy reserves to maintain each flowing movement. In addition, even the meditative aspect of tai chi can help in weight loss, because mental energy is as needed as physical energy.
Stress is known to produce cortisol, the natural steroidal hormone that is released by the adrenal glands. Its main function is to provide energy for the body in response to a ‘fight or flight’ situation. It stimulates insulin release to maintain blood sugar levels as well as fat and carbohydrate metabolism. The end result is that your appetite increases tremendously, specifically for fat producing foods, thus adding to weight gain. Tai chi is an excellent stress reducer. Using deep concentration to perform each move, the body must let go of underlying mental impediments that cause stress. By reducing stress the body’s cortisol levels will also drop, reversing the potential for fat consumption.
Boredom and Depression
Being bored can often lead to binge eating and in turn result in depression. This can start up more binge eating, causing a ruthless cycle of weight gain. Tai chi can cut through your everyday boredom, allowing the mind to settle into a ‘quiet’ workout and allowing a more symbiotic energy flow throughout the system. Practicing tai chi will dissipate boredom and replace it with an inner strength that can result in higher self-esteem, positive inner strength and overall acceptance. When you find yourself slipping into an eating cycle, you will be able to incorporate your tai chi practice anywhere, including a conference room or outdoor park near your job.
Increased Metabolic Fire
All forms of exercise affect the body in different ways. Tai chi is no exception. Working the muscles in slow contractions increases muscle and bone strength, flexibility, improved circulation and best of all, stimulates your metabolism. When your metabolism is fired up it can burn fat like a coal eating locomotive. Through this beneficial combination, you will begin to see ‘ripped’ toning of the body as the fat sheds and the muscles appear.
When finding a tai chi class, you should be able to audit one or two classes for free to see if it is right for you. Make sure to ask the instructor about their training and talk with the students to see if they’re satisfied. If it is not fun and challenging, it will not be beneficial.