T'ai Chi

T'ai Chi

Sick of step aerobics? Tired of tennis, but still want to stay in shape? If you're looking for something to shake up your workout routine, try t'ai chi. T'ai chi (pronounced: tie chee) is great for improving flexibility and strengthening your legs, abs, and arms. Get ready to "Part the Horse's Mane," and give t'ai chi a try!

What Is T'ai Chi?

When you think about martial arts, karate and judo may come to mind. T'ai chi, sometimes called t'ai chi chuan, is also an ancient Chinese martial art form that was developed to enhance both physical and emotional well-being.

T_tai-chi_history

It's been said that t'ai chi is a combination of moving yoga and meditation. A person performs t'ai chi by practicing breathing exercises and a series of slow, graceful, flowing postures (also called poses) simultaneously. The postures consist of movements that are said to improve body awareness and enhance strength and coordination. Many people who practice t'ai chi say that they feel more peaceful and relaxed after a workout.

T'ai chi was developed in ancient China as early as 225 AD. The ancient Chinese believed that the body was filled with energy, or chi, but chi could become blocked, causing illness and disease. They believed that a person could help improve the flow of chi throughout the body and improve health by practicing t'ai chi exercises.

The many different styles of t'ai chi include:

The different types vary in intensity and focus. For example, Sun style is known for its fast footwork. The low-impact movements of Hao style can be practiced by people who are elderly or have special needs. In general, though, practicing t'ai chi improves strength, flexibility, and respiratory function.

You have many choices when it comes to choosing a t'ai chi workout. Many fitness centers and YMCAs offer t'ai chi classes, and many t'ai chi instructors also offer private classes. You may also want to try a t'ai chi video — there are several excellent videos just for beginners. Instructional websites, CD-ROMs, and books are also available to help you learn more about t'ai chi.

Before you start your first t'ai chi workout, you should dress comfortably so you can move and stretch easily. Shorts or tights and a T-shirt or tank top are great choices. Because t'ai chi is a martial art, some people who practice it wear a martial arts training uniform. T'ai chi is usually practiced barefoot or in comfortable socks and sneakers.

During a t'ai chi class, you'll participate in forms. Each form is a series of movements (also called poses) performed in a specific order. The poses that make up the forms sometimes have visually descriptive names, such as "White Crane Spreads Its Wings" and "Grasp Sparrow's Tail."

Poses to Try

Here are a few poses that you might encounter if you take a t'ai chi class or watch a t'ai chi video:

Before You Begin

Before you begin any type of exercise program, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor, especially if you have a health problem. But unlike many other sports, t'ai chi is based on continuous, flowing, low-impact movements, so it's a good workout choice for just about anyone.

Is your schedule jam-packed with school, work, and social activities? Here are a few tips for fitting in fitness and staying motivated:

There's one caution about starting a t'ai chi routine, though: Once you start, you might not be able to stop!

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: November 2011





Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.





Bookmark and Share

Related Resources
MagazineT'ai chi Magazine This magazine has information about how t'ai chi may improve health.
OrganizationAmerican Council on Exercise (ACE) ACE promotes active, healthy lifestyles by setting certification and education standards for fitness instructors and through ongoing public education about the importance of exercise.
Related Articles
Kickboxing Are you looking for a total body workout that totally kicks butt? Read this article to find what you need to know before you take the kickboxing challenge.
Yoga Looking for a workout program that's easy to learn, requires little or no equipment, and soothes your soul while toning your body? Read about yoga - and watch our slideshow for some easy poses to try.
Sports and Exercise Safety Playing hard doesn't have to mean getting hurt. The best way to ensure a long and injury-free athletic career is to play it safe from the start. Find out how.
Strength Training Is working out with weights safe for teens? The best way to build muscle tone and definition is to combine aerobic and flexibility exercises with the right kind of strength training.
What's A Good Workout for a Busy Schedule? Find out what the experts have to say.
iGrow iGrow
Sign up for our parent enewsletter