Tai chi: A gentle way to fight stress

Tai chi: A gentle way to fight stress

Tai chi helps reduce stress and anxiety. And it also helps increase flexibility and balance.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you’re looking for a way to reduce stress, consider tai chi (TIE-CHEE). Originally developed for self-defense, tai chi has evolved into a graceful form of exercise that’s now used for stress reduction and a variety of other health conditions. Often described as meditation in motion, tai chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements.

What is tai chi?

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that, today, is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing.

Tai chi, also called tai chi chuan, is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion.

Tai chi has many different styles. Each style may subtly emphasize various tai chi principles and methods. There are variations within each style. Some styles may focus on health maintenance, while others focus on the martial arts aspect of tai chi.

Tai chi is different from yoga, another type of meditative movement. Yoga includes various physical postures and breathing techniques, along with meditation.

Who can do tai chi?

Tai chi is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. In fact, because tai chi is a low-impact exercise, it may be especially suitable if you’re an older adult who otherwise may not exercise.

You may also find tai chi appealing because it’s inexpensive and requires no special equipment. You can do tai chi anywhere, including indoors or outside. And you can do tai chi alone or in a group class.

Although tai chi is generally safe, women who are pregnant or people with joint problems, back pain, fractures, severe osteoporosis or a hernia should consult their health care provider before trying tai chi. Modification or avoidance of certain postures may be recommended.

Why try tai chi?

When learned correctly and performed regularly, tai chi can be a positive part of an overall approach to improving your health. The benefits of tai chi may include:

  • Decreased stress, anxiety and depression
  • Improved mood
  • Improved aerobic capacity
  • Increased energy and stamina
  • Improved flexibility, balance and agility
  • Improved muscle strength and definition

More research is needed to determine the health benefits of tai chi. Some evidence indicates that tai chi may also help:

  • Enhance quality of sleep
  • Enhance the immune system
  • Help lower blood pressure
  • Improve joint pain
  • Improve symptoms of congestive heart failure
  • Improve overall well-being
  • Reduce risk of falls in older adults

How to get started with tai chi

Although you can rent or buy videos and books about tai chi, consider seeking guidance from a qualified tai chi instructor to gain the full benefits and learn proper techniques.

You can find tai chi classes in many communities today. To find a class near you, contact local fitness centers, health clubs and senior centers. Tai chi instructors don’t have to be licensed or attend a standard training program. It’s a good idea to ask about an instructor’s training and experience, and get recommendations if possible.

A tai chi instructor can teach you specific positions and breathing techniques. An instructor can also teach you how to practice tai chi safely, especially if you have injuries, chronic conditions, or balance or coordination problems. Although tai chi is slow and gentle, and generally doesn’t have negative side effects, it may be possible to get injured if you don’t use the proper techniques.

After learning tai chi, you may eventually feel confident enough to do tai chi on your own. But if you enjoy the social aspects of a class, consider continuing with group tai chi classes.

Maintaining the benefits of tai chi

While you may gain some benefit from a tai chi class that lasts 12 weeks or less, you may enjoy greater benefits if you continue tai chi for the long term and become more skilled.

You may find it helpful to practice tai chi in the same place and at the same time every day to develop a routine. But if your schedule is erratic, do tai chi whenever you have a few minutes. You can even practice the soothing mind-body concepts of tai chi without performing the actual movements when you are in a stressful situation, such as a traffic jam or a tense work meeting, for instance.

Link: https://wisdomtea.org/2022/05/12/tai-chi-a-gentle-way-to-fight-stress/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/tai-chi/art-20045184

Health Benefits of Squats

Health Benefits of Squats

By WebMD Editorial Contributors

Squat exercises aren’t just for athletes. You can do them as part of your regular exercise routine.

They strengthen your lower body, targeting your glutes and quadriceps.

They also make you use your core muscles.

Other muscles that benefit from squats are:

  • Hip muscles
  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Obliques

Squats burn calories and might help you lose weight.

They also lower your chances of injuring your knees and ankles. As you exercise, the movement strengthens your tendons, bones, and ligaments around the leg muscles. It takes some of the weight off your knees and ankles.

They help make your knees more stable, too.

What’s more, squats may also help boost your bone mineral density for stronger bones. It adds strength to your skeleton, mainly in the spine and lower body.

Squats improve your flexibility, too. As you become older, your tendons, muscles, and ligaments become less elastic. Regularly doing squats can help slow down this process and limber you up.

Squats help you feel and look good. Squatting helps shape up your legs and butt since it targets the glute and inner thigh muscles. As your buttocks become firm, your posture and balance might improve.

How to Do Squats

Do squats the right way to protect yourself from getting injured. Poor form can take a toll on your spine and knees over time. 

The right way to do a squat is to:

  • Stand with your feet apart and parallel to each other.
  • Place your hands on your thighs.
  • Look up and lift your chest.
  • Bend your knees to a 90-degree angle, putting all your weight on your heels and sitting back slowly.
  • Your knees shouldn’t go beyond your toes, and your head and chest should stay upright.
  • Hold the position for 5 seconds.
  • Rise back up, pressing through your heels, and straighten your hips back to the starting position.
  • Repeat five times.

Squats are one of the most effective strength-training exercises around. If you’re not working out already, talk to your doctor before you get started. They can let you know if squats are safe for you to do. You might also want to think about working with a professional strength trainer, who can make sure you’re using the right form.

link: https://wisdomtea.org/2022/05/05/health-benefits-of-squats/

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/health-benefits-of-squats

Back exercises

Back exercises

Back exercises in 15 minutes a day

Do you want to prevent back pain? Try these exercises to stretch and strengthen your back and supporting muscles. Repeat each exercise a few times, then increase the repetitions as the exercise gets easier.

Knee-to-chest stretch

A person lying on back, bringing knees to chest

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor (A). Using both hands, pull up one knee and press it to your chest (B). Tighten your abdominals and press your spine to the floor. Hold for 5 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg (C). Return to the starting position and then repeat with both legs at the same time (D). Repeat each stretch 2 to 3 times — preferably once in the morning and once at night.

Lower back rotational stretch

A person lying on back, rolling knees side to side

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor (A). Keeping your shoulders firmly on the floor, roll your bent knees to one side (B). Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Return to the starting position (C). Repeat on the opposite side (D). Repeat each stretch 2 to 3 times — preferably once in the morning and once at night.

Lower back flexibility exercise

A person practicing lower back flexibility exercise

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor (A). Tighten your abdominal muscles so your stomach pulls away from your waistband (B). Hold for five seconds and then relax. Flatten your back, pulling your bellybutton toward the floor (C). Hold for five seconds and then relax. Repeat. Start with five repetitions each day and gradually work up to 30.

Bridge exercise

A person practicing bridge exercise

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor (A). Keeping your shoulders and head relaxed on the floor, tighten your abdominal and gluteal muscles. Then raise your hips to form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders (B). Try to hold the position long enough to complete three deep breaths. Return to the starting position and repeat. Start with five repetitions each day and gradually work up to 30.

Cat stretch

A person practicing cat stretches

Position yourself on your hands and knees (A). Slowly arch your back, as if you’re pulling your abdomen up toward the ceiling (B). Then slowly let your back and abdomen sag toward the floor (C). Return to the starting position (A). Repeat 3 to 5 times twice a day.

Seated lower back rotational stretch

A person practicing seated twists

Sit on an armless chair or a stool. Cross your right leg over your left leg. Bracing your left elbow against the outside of your right knee, twist and stretch to the side (A). Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side (B). Repeat this stretch 3 to 5 times on each side twice a day.

Shoulder blade squeeze

A person doing shoulder blade squeeze

Sit on an armless chair or a stool (A). While maintaining good posture, pull your shoulder blades together (B). Hold for five seconds and then relax. Repeat 3 to 5 times twice a day.

Link: https://wisdomtea.org/2022/04/28/back-exercises/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/multimedia/back-pain/sls-20076265?s=1

7 Surprising Benefits of Exercise

7 Surprising Benefits of Exercise

BY MANDY OAKLANDER AND HEATHER JONES

SEPTEMBER 1, 2016

You probably have a vague sense that exercise is good for you—and you’ve probably heard that it’s “healthy for the heart.” But if you’re like most people, that’s not enough motivation to get you to break a sweat with any regularity. As I report in the TIME cover story, “The Exercise Cure,” only 20% of Americans get the recommended 150 minutes of strength and cardiovascular physical activity per week, more than half of all baby boomers report doing no exercise whatsoever, and 80.2 million Americans over age 6 are entirely inactive.

Photograph by Gjon Mili—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images. Colorization by Sanna Dullaway for TIME

That’s bad news, but emerging evidence shows that there are plenty of compelling reasons to start moving at any age and even if you’re ill or pregnant. Indeed, scientists are learning that exercise is, actually, medicine. “There is no pill that comes close to what exercise can do,” says Claude Bouchard, director of the human genomics laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. “And if there was one, it would be extremely expensive.”

You can read the whole story for more, but here are some of the amazing things that happen to a body in motion.

1. Exercise is great for your brain.

It’s linked to less depression, better memory and quicker learning. Studies also suggest that exercise is, as of now, the best way to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, a major fear for many Americans.

Scientists don’t know exactly why exercise changes the structure and function of the brain, but it’s an area of active research. So far, they’ve found that exercise improves blood flow to the brain, feeding the growth of new blood vessels and even new brain cells, thanks to the protein BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF triggers the growth of new neurons and helps repair and protect brain cells from degeneration. It may also help people focus, according to recent research.

2. You might get happier.

Countless studies show that many types of exercise, from walking to cycling, make people feel better and can even relieve symptoms of depression. Exercise triggers the release of chemicals in the brain—serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, dopamine—that dull pain, lighten mood and relieve stress. “For years we focused almost exclusively on the physical benefits of exercise and really have ignored the psychological and emotional benefits of being regularly active,” says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise.

3. It might make you age slower.

Exercise has been shown to lengthen lifespan by as much as five years. A small new study suggests that moderate-intensity exercise may slow down the aging of cells. As humans get older and their cells divide over and over again, their telomeres—the protective caps on the end of chromosomes—get shorter. To see how exercise affects telomeres, researchers took a muscle biopsy and blood samples from 10 healthy people before and after a 45-minute ride on a stationary bicycle. They found that exercise increased levels of a molecule that protects telomeres, ultimately slowing how quickly they shorten over time. Exercise, then, appears to slow aging at the cellular level.

4. It’ll make your skin look better.

Aerobic exercise revs up blood flow to the skin, delivering oxygen and nutrients that improve skin health and even help wounds heal faster. “That’s why when people have injuries, they should get moving as quickly as possible—not only to make sure the muscle doesn’t atrophy, but to make sure there’s good blood flow to the skin,” says Anthony Hackney, an exercise physiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Train long enough, and you’ll add more blood vessels and tiny capillaries to the skin, too.

The skin also serves as a release point for heat. (See “Why Does My Face Turn Red When I Exercise?” for more on that.) When you exercise, your muscles generate a lot of heat, which you have to give up to the environment so your body temperature doesn’t get too high, Hackney says. The heat in the muscle transfers to the blood, which shuttles it to the skin; it can then escape into the atmosphere.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

5. Amazing things can happen in just a few minutes.

Emerging research suggests that it doesn’t take much movement to get the benefits. “We’ve been interested in the question of, How low can you go?” says Martin Gibala, an exercise physiologist at McMaster University in Ontario. He wanted to test how effective a 10-minute workout could be, compared to the typical 50-minute bout. The micro-workout he devised consists of three exhausting 20-second intervals of all-out, hard-as-you-can exercise, followed by brief recoveries. In a three-month study, he pitted the short workout against the standard one to see which was better. To his amazement, the workouts resulted in identical improvements in heart function and blood-sugar control, even though one workout was five times longer than the other. “If you’re willing and able to push hard, you can get away with surprisingly little exercise,” Gibala says.

6. It can help you recover from a major illness.

Even very vigorous exercise—like the interval workouts Gibala is studying—can, in fact, be appropriate for people with different chronic conditions, from Type 2 diabetes to heart failure. That’s new thinking, because for decades, people with certain diseases were advised not to exercise. Now scientists know that far more people can and should exercise. A recent analysis of more than 300 clinical trials discovered that for people recovering from a stroke, exercise was even more effective at helping them rehabilitate.

Dr. Robert Sallis, a family physician at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center in California, has prescribed exercise to his patients since the early 1990s in hopes of doling out less medication. “It really worked amazingly, particularly in my very sickest patients,” he says. “If I could get them to do it on a regular basis—even just walking, anything that got their heart rate up a bit—I would see dramatic improvements in their chronic disease, not to mention all of these other things like depression, anxiety, mood and energy levels.”

7. Your fat cells will shrink.

The body uses both carbohydrates and fats as energy sources. But after consistent aerobic exercise training, the body gets better at burning fat, which requires a lot of oxygen to convert it into energy. “One of the benefits of exercise training is that our cardiovascular system gets stronger and better at delivering oxygen, so we are able to metabolize more fat as an energy source,” Hackney says. As a result, your fat cells—which produce the substances responsible for chronic low-grade inflammation—shrink, and so does inflammation.

Link: https://wisdomtea.org/?p=561

#EerciseBenefits#Happy#Young#Slowaging#WeightControl

Tennis: The Sport for a Lifetime


Tennis: The Sport for a Lifetime

Jul 25, 2014

  | By Xavier Luna

Why is tennis so often referred to as “The sport for a lifetime?” Largely because tennis isn’t just a terrific means of exercise and improving your health, but it offers psychological advantages as well. Tennis is also fun to watch and can expand your horizons across the country and around the world.

The sport is very accessible as well. Not only can you find an adequate court at almost any city park in the U.S., but you can also enjoy all of the game’s benefits, no matter your skill level. Let’s take a more detailed look at exactly what makes tennis the sport for a lifetime.

Live longer, live happier and live better
The late Dr. Ralph Paffenbarger, an expert on exercise, stated that people who play at least three hours a week of moderately intense tennis will cut their risk of death from any cause by 50 percent! That’s a big endorsement of the health benefits of the game. Studies also show that tennis players have higher levels of vigor, self-esteem and optimism, and are less likely to experience anger, depression, anxiety and/or confusion.

To develop a sound body
Additional physical benefits of tennis include:
►Improved balance, from all the starts, stops and changes in direction.

►Many health experts believe the game generates new connections between nerves in the brain for a lifetime of cognitive development.

►Competitive tennis is said to burn more calories than other aerobic workout, including cycling.

►The constant movement and pace of tennis is great for cardiovascular health.

►Tennis promotes a strengthened immune system, further promoting a healthier body and a greater ability to fend off disease.

Cultivate a sound mind
There are many psychological benefits associated with tennis, from discipline to strategic thinking, to stress management. For instance, in order to improve your tennis game, you need to have the discipline to play and practice well. 

Additional psychological benefits of tennis include:
Strategic thinking: Players need to consider ball angles, continuously analyze their opponents and their tendencies, figuring out ways to expose their weaknesses and gain an advantage.

►Teamwork: Doubles play depends just as much as you as on whom you choose as a partner, teaching teamwork, communication and working together as a cohesive unit.

Mental toughness: Players need to adapt to varying elements (i.e., the sun, wind, etc.) and learn the ability to help them shake off bad serves, returns and even entire matches.

A global sport that delivers a world of benefits
Aside from the health and psychological benefits, being a tennis fan can mean seeing some exciting action. Take the four Grand Slams, Wimbledon, the French Open, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open. These events demonstrate that tennis is a truly global game.

Most importantly, tennis is fun! That’s arguably the most significant reason why it’s deemed “The sport for a lifetime.” Aren’t you glad tennis is already your sport?

Link: https://wisdomtea.org/2022/02/16/449/

https://newyorktennismagazine.com/article6114/tennis-sport-lifetime

7 Reasons To Make Time For Jogging

Written by Amber Petty on March 18, 2020

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

It’s good for mental health

Depression and anxiety are growing health concerns in the United States. About 7 percent of adults will likely experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime. Since it’s an election year, that number might go up to 259 percent (this isn’t based on science, just on the looks of our Facebook feeds).

Jogging certainly isn’t a cure for depression or anxiety, but there’s growing evidence that it helps ease the symptoms. A 2004 review of studies about exercise and depression found that working out lifted people’s moods.

In a 1999 study mentioned in the review, a 16-week walking or jogging regimen (30 minutes, three times a week) was as effective at reducing depression symptoms as taking medication for the same length of time. (Of course, we don’t recommend you ditch therapy or toss your Lexapro prescription just because you put on your running shoes.)

And you don’t have to be a marathoner or a super-fast sprinter to see results from jogging. A small 1998 study found that jogging improved participants’ moods regardless of whether they exercised at low, moderate, or high intensity.

It reduces stress

If you’ve never felt stressed, we’d love to pull a “Freaky Friday” and swap bodies with you. But if you’re one of the 40 million adults who have an anxiety disorder, jogging could help reduce your stress level.

In a 2018 review of studies, researchers concluded that aerobic exercise is helpful for people who experience increased anxiety. Not too shabby!

It helps you sleep better

The benefits of a jog don’t end after your cooldown stretch. They can improve your entire day… and night!

A 2017 review noted that scientists aren’t 100 percent sure why exercise and sleep are connected, but they definitely are. Overall, study participants who performed cardiovascular exercise like jogging had improved sleep.

Moderate aerobic exercise can also help with chronic insomnia, according to a 2012 review of studies. Fewer hours lying awake, tossing and turning? Sign us up!

It strengthens your immune system

Your body’s ability to fight off disease is super important, so anything you can do to bolster it is probably a good idea.

A 2018 review found that people who exercised regularly were less likely to get bacterial and viral infections. It didn’t address jogging specifically but found that any physical activity can provide an immunity boost.

It decreases insulin resistance

If you’re insulin-resistant, it means your body doesn’t respond to insulin properly. That can lead to high blood sugar and possibly diabetes. In other words, insulin resistance = bad.

Thankfully, regular jogging has been shown to decrease insulin resistance. A 2015 review found that exercise decreased insulin resistance, overall cholesterol, and risk of heart disease in most patients.

If you’re at risk for diabetes, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider to find out whether you could benefit from changing your diet in addition to getting your jog on. Even if you don’t have any blood sugar issues, jogging could help improve your overall blood work results.

It increases lifespan

“I’m gonna live forever” is not how everyone feels after a long jog. But truly, jogging may help you live longer.

In a 2017 review that included data from more than 55,000 people, researchers found that jogging could reduce the risk of dying from heart attack or stroke by 45 percent. Plus, it could reduce the chance of dying from any cause by 30 percent.

Obviously, this doesn’t factor in car crashes or freak accidents involving falling air conditioners. But a 30 percent decreased risk of death by disease is pretty incredible!

Photo by Dianne on Pexels.com

It makes your wallet happy

OK, this isn’t a health benefit, per se. But if you’re on a budget, not worrying about paying gym fees will definitely lead to less stress. Jogging is cheap! Technically, you don’t need anything to jog except a pair of sneakers, which you probably already own.

Since you can jog almost any time and any place, it’s easy to fit into a busy schedule. And you never have to deal with weird gym bros.

Link:https://wisdomtea.org/2021/12/22/7-reasons-to-make-time-for-jogging/

How to Get the Biggest Benefits of Walking

How to Get the Biggest Benefits of Walking

Lose weight, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress when you walk this way

By Sally WadykaUpdated

May 2, 202

Getting exercise through walking is as easy as lacing up your sneakers and hitting the pavement or trail. Doing so is a safe way to get a workout without needing a gym, and it can boost your mental and physical health in several important ways.

“Walking is the most studied form of exercise, and multiple studies have proven that it’s the best thing we can do to improve our overall health, and increase our longevity and functional years,” says Robert Sallis, MD, a family physician and sports medicine doctor with Kaiser Permanente.

In its 2018 scientific report to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee noted that walking is the most popular aerobic activity and has one of the lowest injury rates of any form of exercise.

And a 2019 study of more than 44,000 Canadians found that people living in more walkable neighborhoods had a lower overall risk of cardiovascular disease. That’s a reason to advocate for local infrastructure that makes walking easier, says lead author Nicholas Howell, PhD, of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

Still, in the short term, “even in less walkable neighborhoods, there are ways to be active in your daily routines,” Howell says. He suggests running errands on foot, parking farther from your destination, or getting off the bus a stop early. Those small adjustments “can help fit in a few extra steps each day,” Howell says. “And they all add up.”

Here, we explain what walking can do for you—and how to maximize its many benefits.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Benefits of Walking

1. Lower body mass index (BMI): A study from the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, published in 2017 in the International Journal of Obesity confirms that those who walk more and sit less have lower BMIs, which is one indicator of obesity. In the study, those who took 15,000 or more steps per day tended to have BMIs in the normal, healthy range.

2. Lower blood pressure and cholesterol: The National Walkers’ Health study found that regular walking was linked to a 7 percent reduced risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

3. Lower fasting blood sugar (glucose): Higher blood glucose levels are a risk factor for diabetes, and the National Walkers’ Health Study also found that walkers had a 12 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

4. Better memory and cognitive function: A 2021 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that when adults 55 or older with mild cognitive impairment were assigned to either stretching and toning exercises or to aerobic training—mostly walking—both groups showed some improvement on cognitive tests. But when compared with the stretching and toning group, the group that walked for fitness improved aerobic fitness more, had decreased stiffness in neck arteries, and showed increased blood flow to the brain in ways that researchers think could provide more cognitive benefits in the long term.

clinical trial of older adults in Japan published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in 2015 found that after 12 weeks, men and women in a prescribed daily walking exercise group had significantly greater improvements in memory and executive function (the ability to pay focused attention, to switch among various tasks, and to hold multiple items in working memory) compared with those in a control group who were told just to carry on with their usual daily routine.

And a study of 299 adults, published in the journal Neurology in 2010, found that walking was associated with a greater volume of gray matter in the brain, a measure of brain health.

5. Lower stress and improved mood: Like other types of aerobic exercise, walking—especially out in nature—stimulates the production of neurotransmitters in the brain (such as endorphins) that help improve your mental state.

6. Longer life: In a review of studies published in 2014 in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, researchers found that walking for roughly 3 hours a week was associated with an 11 percent reduced risk of premature death compared with those who did little or no activity.

And it’s never too late to reap the benefits of walking: A small 2013 study in the journal Maturitas found that seniors with an average age of 80 who walked just four times a week were much less likely to die over the study’s 10-year follow-up period than those who walked less.

Link:https://wisdomtea.org/2021/12/15/how-to-get-the-biggest-benefits-of-walking/