Tai chi, Pilates and yoga are great low-impact activities that focus on improving your balance and core strength. Generally, these activities are accessible to everyone no matter your age or ability level and provide great health benefits. You can search for a class near you as well as the particular type of yoga, Pilates or tai chi that suits you best.
Tai chi, Pilates and yoga are particularly popular because building strength and balance can reduce the risk of falling, as well as ease the symptoms of various health conditions. Many of the movements and poses involved can also be adapted for people with disabilities, including wheelchair users.
Tai chi was originally created as a form of martial art, today it is practised as a health-promoting, low-impact activity.
There are different types of tai chi which vary in speed and the poses you are required to hold. If you attend a class you may find the teacher practises various styles and teaches tai chi in their own unique way, ask them if their class is right for you.
While there is room for further study on its health benefits, research has suggested that tai chi can help reduce stress levels, improve balance, increase muscle strength in your legs, and improve general mobility and flexibility.
Pilates aims to strengthen your body overall with emphasis on improving general fitness and wellbeing. It can be done similarly to yoga, on a mat, or most often with the aid of resistance equipment for building strength.
The health benefits of Pilates are thought to include improved posture, muscle toning and improved balance and mobility. There is also some evidence that suggests Pilates can beneficial if you suffer from back pain as the use of equipment allows you to exercise while your back is being supported. Although there has been little scientific research into its benefits, Pilates is generally considered a safe and beneficial form of exercise.
Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that is based around performing different poses or postures. It is great for helping you build strength and flexibility as well as focusing on breathing which can boost your physical and mental wellbeing. Yoga can help improve your balance by focusing on strengthening muscles in your lower body, particularly the knees, ankles and hips.
There are many different styles of yoga, the most common including Ashtanga, Iyengar and Sivananda. Some types are more intense than others. They tend to have a different area of emphasis, such as posture or breathing. No style is necessarily better than any other. The key is to find a class appropriate for your ability level.
You shouldn't worry about not being flexible or fit enough to try yoga, beginner level classes are common at most gyms and leisure centres, as are classes designed especially for expectant mothers.
There is evidence that suggests these activities can be beneficial if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains, including some types of arthritis, as well as mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and stress.
While you can do most yoga and tai chi exercises at home yourself, with the help of an app, book or DVD, it is advised that you start by going to a class and learn with a trained instructor. They will be able to correct any mistakes and advise on stretches and poses best suited for you, this reduces the chance of strain or injury compared to practicing yourself.
As Pilates usually requires equipment you will need to attend a class or one on one training session with an instructor. These are common in most gyms and leisure centres.
As for equipment, you will need comfortable work out clothing which allows you to move and stretch freely. You will also need a mat, most classes require you to bring your own.