"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Looking for a lighter type of exercise? Try Tai Chi.

This ancient Chinese practice can lower blood pressure and offer other cardiovascular advantages.

Tai Chi is a slow, flowing type of exercise that is typically described as “meditation in motion.” The exercise involves a series of choreographed movements with provocative descriptions, akin to “grabbing a bird's tail” or “waving your hands like clouds.” As your body moves, your mind has to focus. But Tai Chi encourages leisure, which helps reduce stress.

A gateway exercise

Tai Chi will be a very good gateway exercise for individuals who can't or won't do more traditional exercise. Even people who find themselves out of practice can do tai chi, which might help construct strength and confidence, each physically and mentally. And in case you practice more vigorously or sink deeper into poses, tai chi can provide a moderate aerobic workout.

But the meditative features of tai chi that teach physical awareness, leisure and stress management are also vital, says Dr. Yeh, who directs the mind-body research program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She adds that folks with heart disease can profit from holistic approaches that address their overall well-being.

Protecting the center

Studies exploring the health advantages of tai chi — including pain reduction and improved mood — date back to the Nineteen Fifties. Tai Chi might help lower levels of cholesterol and reduce inflammation, each of that are linked to higher heart health. But in keeping with a 2008 review of 26 studies co-authored by Dr. Yeh within the journal, the perfect evidence appears to be for improving blood pressure. Preventive Cardiology. In individuals with hypertension, systolic blood pressure (the primary number in a blood pressure reading) fell from seven to 32 points, while diastolic pressure (the second number) fell from two to 18 points.

Healing the center

Getting Started with Tai Chi

You can even find local Tai Chi classes at martial arts studios, community centers, health clubs, Y's and senior centers. Costs vary widely, from about $7 to $18 for an hour-long class. Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and supportive shoes akin to sneakers (or no sneakers, in case you prefer). During the category, the teacher will exhibit graceful, slow arm and leg movements, often done with a slight bend within the knees. “You can learn to release excess muscle tension, take deep breaths, and pay attention to how your body feels,” says Dr. Yeh.

You can learn Tai Chi by watching DVDs, which you may also use to practice at home. But there are some benefits to going to class. Concepts will be easier to understand with a live instructor you may interact with, and being in a gaggle provides support and encouragement.

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