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Tai Chi and Aerobic Capacity

Tai chi is an ancient martial art that has gained much popularity due to its numerous health benefits. This user-friendly exercise can be easily performed by all ages and skill levels.

The combination of movements, deep breathing, and meditation make this exercise perfect for improving aerobic capacity. Nevertheless, research on tai chi for aerobic capacity has yielded mixed results.


Tai Chi and Aerobic Capacity


Brief History of Tai Chi

Tai chi as a martial art originated around 5,000 years ago. It began as a form of self-defense but turned to an exercise thought to have medicinal properties. Inspired by nature and spiritual beliefs with Taoist roots, the goal of tai chi is to harness energy called qi in order to find harmony between the contradictory forces yin and yang.

This balance, as well as the flow of positive qi, is a requirement for good health for those who practice tai chi.


Aerobic Capacity

Aerobic capacity refers to the body’s ability to consume and put to use oxygen at its maximum level. It can also be referred to as maximal oxygen consumption. Having strong aerobic capacity is beneficial for health as it allows for a more sufficient cardiorespiratory system.

Simultaneously, it is necessary for people whose goal is fitness as it assists with energy and endurance as well as muscle growth through nourishment from blood flow.


How Tai Chi Impacts Aerobic Capacity

Practicing tai chi can influence aerobic capacity through its graceful movements and deep breathing. Although the slow speed of tai chi does not seem like it would have much of an impact in strengthening the cardiorespiratory system, it can because it emphasizes endurance and stamina rather than short, intense workouts. Nevertheless, mastery of the exercise allows for greater speed.

Additionally, tai chi allows you to master proper breathing techniques, which inherently make for better aerobic capacity. Most people limit their breathing by using only the chest to inhale rather than diaphragmatic breathing.

Chest breathing does not allow for maximum oxygen intake. Proper breathing is called “belly breathing” and allows you to take oxygen all the way to your diaphragm. Consequently, you reach your aerobic capacity through diaphragmatic breathing rather than limiting yourself to chest breathing.


Evidence for Tai Chi and the Improvement of Aerobic Capacity

A meta-analysis published in the “Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing” examined seven studies directly related to tai chi for the improvement of aerobic capacity. The researchers found participants who performed tai chi for one year who were previously inactive demonstrated improvement in aerobic capacity. The greatest improvement was seen in female participants.

The researchers recommend tai chi as an additional form of aerobics. In contrast, the “British Journal of Sports Medicine” did not find significant results to prove tai chi as effective for aerobic capacity improvement. Despite conflicting results, there is support for tai chi as an aerobic exercise, especially for those looking for a low-impact, minimal- to moderate-intensity-level exercise program.


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