Tai Chi

  • Author:
    Richard Weil, MEd, CDE

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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How much tai chi should I do?

There's not enough research to suggest what the optimal dose of tai chi is to accrue benefits. Studies have shown effects with as little participation as one hour of training per week, although, as in any new activity (such as dancing) there is a sharp learning curve in the beginning, and many individuals might find participating two to three times per week, at least in the beginning, is probably a more effective dose. It is the conventional wisdom in tai chi circles that a person needs at least one year of tai chi before one becomes proficient.

How do I get started with tai chi?

Tai chi is becoming more popular in the United States as Americans look for new and different ways to exercise. Video tapes are one way to get started with tai chi. Check http://www.taichihealth.net/ and http://www.collagevideo.com for a selection of tai chi tapes; everything from tai chi for seniors to urban tai chi. Although I frequently recommend video tapes, you may be better served learning tai chi hands on...that is, with an instructor. The movements should be done properly, and a watchful instructor might be better at helping you than a video tape if you have difficulty with movement. Check your local community recreation center, health club, martial arts studio, Y, or senior center for tai chi classes. Of course, if there are no classes in your area, then a video tape is the next best thing. As I mentioned, there are several styles of tai chi. The wu style seems best for balance and fall prevention, but your choices may be limited, and so I suggest that you practice whatever is available to you. As tai chi gains in popularity, your local options may increase as well. However, since all styles of tai chi involve slow, flowing movements with attention to breathing, you'll benefit from whatever style you can find.

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