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As a gerontology nurse and longtime tai chi practitioner, I’m always looking for research that will explain tai chi’s benefits to my colleagues in the health professions. Yes, those of us who practice the art don’t need to be convinced, but as my thesis advisor used to say, “If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist.” So I was intrigued to see this article posted on the New York Times website a couple of months ago: Better Aging Through Practice, Practice, Practice The gist of the article is that most of us have no problem learning new skills when we are young, but we tend to avoid taking on new challenges as we age. It’s too much work, we don’t want to look stupid, we’re busy, etc. The author looks at what the experts have to say about healthy aging, and concludes that one of the best approaches to keeping both mind and body healthy and alert is to attempt to master a new skill. The actual mastery isn’t the goal. But pushing yourself in an unfamiliar direction and becoming newly familiar with your strengths and weaknesses can have tremendous benefits, even beyond the sense of accomplishment we feel from achieving a goal. So if you’ve never tried tai chi before, what are you waiting for? And if you’ve been practicing for a long time, why not try a new form, a new weapon, or a new style? We’ve been saying for a long time that tai chi keeps us young. Let’s prove it to the world!

Watch 100 year old tai chi master Wu Tunan perform at the International Tai Chi Competition in Wuhan, China, in 1984.

Healthy Living With Tai Chi by Jean Lukitsh, RN, MSN