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The Okinawa Program was a 25 year study into longevity and healthy living. It led to other studies such as The Blue Zones, 50 Secrets of the World's Longest Living People and How Not To Die.
The three doctors who wrote The Okinawa Program maintain that tai chi - with its ancient origins and incredible health benefits - is the ideal form of exercise for modern people of all ages.
Faced with a major health crisis, the People's Republic of China turned to the old/classical Yang style tai chi for a solution. Just think about what that means...
Yang style tai chi's reputation for health was so well founded that the government of China thought to employ the art officially as a means of improving wellbeing.
Tai chi proved to be a very effective form of preventative healthcare and the art was introduced to schools nationwide.
According to the book The Blue Zones it is important to think of exercise in terms of what you can reasonably do long-term.
The ideal form of exercise is moderate enough that you can do it for the rest of your life. It needs to be joint-friendly, provide a gentle workout and be sustainable.
This sounds rather like tai chi, doesn't it?
In terms of exercise, attending the gym or going running may seem like viable options. But how much social interaction takes place with those activities?
Running the street by yourself may be great fun if you like to run, but there's no social component as such.
In terms of the gym... exertive, physically strenuous exercise won't necessarily make you feel good. You may just feel wiped out.
Tai chi offers the best of both worlds: you get a satisfying workout and there's an inclusive community vibe.
Students in a tai chi school are encouraged to interact with one another in a healthy, friendly manner, free from the competitive norms found in wider society.
There is a supportive atmosphere of trust and care. The training hall is safe place to be. People come to relax, to learn, to have a good night.
Tai chi buddies
Tai chi students make friendships within class that last for many years. The shared experience of learning, growing, exploring is pleasant.
You are journeying on a path that is unusual, mysterious and fascinating. There is much to discover and you will undergo many changes along the way.
The people who attend class with you are sharing your voyage. They understand. They empathise.
The Chinese exercise practice of tai chi can significantly boost the body's
immune system response to virus infection.
(ABC Science, regarding a University of California study)
Tai chi is the one exercise that can universally help solve our growing health crisis. It has stood the test of thousands of years. We have a generation of baby boomers with increasing health problems; old people who are sick, in pain, fearful, and cranky; a middle class that is increasingly incapable of affording most of the drugs that are prescribed for their ailments; children that are flaccid, diabetic and asthmatic. People of all ages are addicted to drugs, alcohol, sugar, cigarettes, and caffeine. Stress follows almost everyone like a shadow.
Tai chi is often described as "meditation in motion," but it might well be called "medication in motion." There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can get started even if you aren't in top shape or the best of health.
Tai chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched. Tai chi addresses the key components of fitness — muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning.
(Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publication, May 2009)
21 May 1997
Last updated 16 June 2023