Historically a type of Chinese martial art, the practice of tai chi is touted for its defense training and its health benefits for the body. The practice itself looks a lot like slow-motion fighting and relies on a gentle and constant flow of movements that stretch and strengthen the body.
There are numerous techniques, some harder than others, for participants to follow, and more than 100 possible positions.
Benefits of tai chi: Tai chi's rhythmic movements are said to be mentally and physically calming, and can potentially ease a variety of health conditions such as arthritis, joint stiffness and fibromyalgia. Tai chi is also said to improve balance and flexibility, lower blood pressure, improve sleep quality, relieve chronic pain and promote overall wellness.
Who tai chi is best for: Because no special equipment is required, tai chi can be performed virtually anywhere and any time, in a group or flying solo. Tai chi is safe for participants of any age, and is particularly good for the elderly. Often referred to as "meditation in motion," tai chi routines are self-paced.
Getting ready: Eat lightly before practicing tai chi. Practitioners are told to begin each practice on an empty stomach.
Calories burned: Despite its reputation as a slow, gentle practice, tai chi can burn a relatively significant amount of calories. A healthy, 130-pound individual can burn approximately 125 calories from 30 minutes of tai chi. Someone who weighs 190 pounds can burn 345 calories in one hour.
Keanu Reeves has been observed numerous times performing tai chi routines.The Matrix star has even been spotted tai chi-ing in a parking lot.
Tai chi is a generally safe practice, with little to no impact on the bones and joints. However, improper positioning of the body during tai chi can result in muscle soreness or sprains.
Who shouldn't do it: Individuals with joint problems, back pain, severe osteoporosis, or hernia should consult a physician before taking up tai chi, as some movements may be unfit or need to be modified. Women who are pregnant may also need to adjust their practice.