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Tai Chi: A Deceptive Exercise for Leg Strength- Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tai Chi: A Deceptive Exercise for Leg Strength

By: Tom Olson

 

 

When thinking of Tai Chi, and it’s many health benefits, the item that certainly comes to mind right away is stress relief.  As we watch Tai Chi, and it’s rhythmic, flowing motions, we cant help but actually feel relaxed.  Once Tai Chi is tried and applied, that assumption would be correct.  However, there are also some surprising aspects about Tai Chi that boost our health like no other activity can.  One of the deceptive good effects of Tai Chi is the overwhelming positive effect it has on leg strength.

 

Many new students come to Tai Chi Chuan class in a sweat suit.  Once they have warmed up and begin the practice of this ancient art, the first thing to go is the sweatshirt.  Then as time goes by, they are even sweating without it.  After class many are also surprised that their legs are very warm and tired.  How could this be?  They have done nothing that would in their opinion constitute a strenuous activity, or even a challenging one at that.  They have done no impact or running drills, yet they are sweating enough to need a towel.

 

In early 2000, a study took place by the National Taiwan Hospital in Taipei, and the results were published in the May 2000 issue of the “Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation”.  In the study, 32 volunteers (15 men, 17 women) participated in a six month Tai Chi  program that took place every morning in a park.  All of the volunteers went through a brief warm up period, then practiced Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan for 24 minutes, then 10 minutes for cool downs.  During the actual practice, they followed and repeated the 108 postures of traditional Tai Chi, moving at the same pace as the instructor.  Before the program even began though, each volunteer had their knee extensor muscles tested for varying degrees of strength and size.  This way they could see the progress at the end of the 6 month testing period.

 

The results of the test were quite significant.  In the mail group, the knee extensor muscles strength increased 16.4-20% in the dominant leg, and 15.1-19.7% in the non-dominant leg.  In the female group, knee extensor strength increased 13.5-19.3% in the dominant leg and 17.7-21.8% in the non-dominant leg.  Endurance was also tested in these muscle groups, and for men it increased 9.6-18.8% and for women endurance increased 10.4-14.7%.

 

These results clearly reflect a significant increase in overall leg strength and endurance.  As our legs equate to almost half of our body, it is so very vital to maintain their health and pliability.  With Tai Chi we can strengthen our legs, increase blood flow, sweat out toxins, and learn to relax all without any impact oriented movement to put undue stress on the ankles, knees, and hips.

 

As our world moves toward the high tech approach of working and playing, Tai Chi Chuan is a breath of fresh air, that comes in the form of a low tech activity.  It can be practiced any where, and any time.  In the end, it’s a reminder of the past when things were slower and solid, and an avenue for those who look to the future to remember that there health is what is important, both physical and mental.  Tai Chi takes has a very deceptive method of doing this, one that hasn’t changed for hundreds of years, and still is as relevant today as it was for our ancestors.

Reference:

 

1.  “Acupuncture Today”, November, 2000, Vol. 01, Issue 11.  Editorial Staff

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