Accelerating life expectancy means a 65-year old man has an average of 18.5 years of life ahead of him, while women of that age will live on average another 21 years. So how can you stay vital and healthy for as long as possible? Justin King, Chartered Financial Planner at award-winning retirement planners MFP Wealth Management, explains why Tai Chi could be a large part of the answer.
A little-known martial art
Most people think of Tai Chi as a wonderful relaxing exercise performed in parks throughout China in the early morning. This is true to some extent.
Tai Chi is relaxing, but it also strengthens the body and has far reaching health benefits in later life. The holistic nature of this ancient martial art makes it suitable for people of all ages and levels of fitness as it adapts itself to suit your abilities.
Tai Chi teacher Mark Peters explained that his oldest student is 104. She took up Tai Chi at age 100 and practices alongside a five-year old child and her mother.
Approximately 30% of people over 65 fall each year, and for those over 75 the rates are higher. Between 20% and 30% of those who fall suffer injuries that reduce mobility and independence and increase the risk of premature death.
Numerous research studies have been conducted on the benefits of practising Tai Chi in later life; all show positive outcomes. One study of over 65s with impairments in lower limb strength, poor balance or slow reaction time had a 40% lower rate of falls than those not taking part in a group-based exercise plan lasting one year.
“But Tai Chi won’t do anything for my cardiovascular fitness”
The data clearly illustrates the benefits of Tai Chi for improved balance, circulation and strength, but what about cardiovascular fitness?
A comparative study between the health benefits of Tai Chi and Zumba showed surprising results. As expected, Tai Chi delivered improvements in balance and relaxation, but both exercise regimes were proven to have the same cardiovascular benefits.
Tai Chi is one of the routes to rehabilitation used in the NHS for COPD, emphysema and heart conditions as a gentler exercise regime that delivers phenomenal all-round benefits. If you’re looking for a gentler way to improve your cardio fitness as you age, Tai Chi could be the answer.
Making the most of your retirement
Staying fit and healthy throughout your later years has to be one of the biggest influences on whether you have a successful retirement. That’s why we regularly feature guests on The Retirement Café podcast who have experience of how to do so and whose inspiring retirement stories may give you food for thought on how to make the most of your retirement years.
To find out more, listen to my interview with Mark Peters on episode 48 of The Retirement Café Podcast by visiting www.theretirementcafe.co.uk.
For more information on Body Balance classes at St Joseph’s Parish Centre, 67 Purewell call 07876 645945
 WHO paper, What are the main risk factors for falls amongst older people and what are the most effective interventions to prevent these falls? 2004