Tai chi is a Chinese form of martial arts that involves slow, controlled and low-impact movements that can be easy for seniors — even those with limited movement. According to Harvard Health Publishing, tai chi exercises can help seniors improve balance, flexibility and muscle strength.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes that practicing tai chi may also reduce back pain and pain from knee osteoarthritis. It can also improve the quality of life for those with heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses.
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1. Touch the Sky
Touch the sky is a simple, beginner-level tai chi exercise. It's also an effective warm-up before performing more intense exercises and is a good way to learn how to coordinate breathing with movement.
- Sit up straight in a comfortable chair. Place your hands in your lap with your palms turned upward and your fingertips pointing toward one another.
- As you inhale slowly and deeply, raise your hands to chest level in front of you, turn your palms outward and lift your hands above your head. Do not reach too far with your arms; keep your elbows relaxed and slightly bent.
- As you exhale slowly and deeply, relax your arms further and gently lower them to your sides.
- At the end of the breath, return your hands to the starting position with your palms turned upward. Repeat this exercise up to 10 times.
2. Shooting the Bow
This is a simple standing tai chi exercise.
- Stand with your feet spread about shoulder-width apart and your arms relaxed at your sides.
- Round your back and bend your knees slightly, looking straight ahead with a relaxed posture.
- Make fists with your hands and place them directly in front of your face with your fingers facing you and the heels of your palms touching at the sides.
- As you inhale slowly and deeply, pivot at the waist to face to your left, extending your left hand directly in front of you. Your left hand should open with your palm facing outward; your left arm should be relaxed and slightly bent.
- At the same time you make this move, pull back slightly with your right fist, as if shooting a bow and arrow. Exhale slowly and deeply as you return to your starting pose.
- On your next breath, repeat the exercise but turn to the right and reach outward with the right hand. Complete up to 10 cycles.
3. Golden Lion Shakes Its Mane
This is another seated, beginner-level tai chi exercise.
- Sit up straight in a comfortable chair, hands resting lightly on your thighs.
- Breathe deeply and comfortably, and as you exhale, lean forward until you can feel the stretch in your lower back.
- As you near the end of your range of forward motion, twist your shoulders to one side, allowing your head and neck to turn with your shoulders and spine.
- Inhale slowly as you twist back toward facing forward and sit up to your starting position.
- On the next exhalation, repeat the motion, only turn to the opposite side.
- Reverse the movement again as you inhale, returning to the starting position. Complete up to 10 full cycles on each side.
Read more: 3 Tai Chi Moves for Beginners to Get Started