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Tai Chi for over 50s

Tai Chi for over 50s

What is Tai Chi? 

A non-combative martial art, Tai Chi moves involve meditative deep breathing and relaxation excercises combined with controlled flowing movements. 

With several government and charity initiatives up and running, Tai Chi for over 50s is becoming more and more popular - and for good reason. Praised for its numerous health benefits, both mentally and physically, Tai Chi is not only a great form of regular exercise, but it makes you feel better and happier all while getting you fitter. So what exactly is Tai Chi for over 50s and how do you find a local class to try it out? 


Tai Chi for beginners 

Are you worried about whether or not it's right for you? Are you fit enough? Tai Chi actually helps calm the mind and alleviate anxieties over time. Whether you're worried about joining a group or can't wait to get going, it may be a good idea to look for a beginner's class to start with. While it is smart to start at the right level, it is even more important that you find an instructor that you get on with - and a group you want to be part of - so ask for taster session to get a feel for it.    

Gransnetters say:

"Having experienced Tai Chi I can really see how beneficial it could be, as both gentle and effective exercise and an excellent way of learning to relax. Learning the sequences is very good exercise for the brain as well so I would recommend it, but try to find a class that is more suitable for beginners." 

"Tai Chi is gentle and makes sure I'm out of bed, out of the house and moving once a week."

"It lifted my mind from the problems of the day because, while I'm thinking of each part of my body and how it is moving, I find it impossible to worry about anything else. A complete mental break."

"I have been learning Tai Chi for the past six years, and can only say that I have found it to be a most wonderful form of relaxation and exercise. I have joined a group of mostly ladies all of whom are a delight to be with. Our teacher endevours to teach us the correct moves, but understands we are not perfect and, as long as we try to get the moves right, she is happy. We also take part in social events and we do a sponsored walk for charity once a year. My mobility has improved and so has my balance, I would recommend Tai Chi to anyone."
"I loved it - so relaxing - and it got rid of all my tension without being too physical. I recommend going to classes so you can learn along with others."
"Different teachers teach Tai Chi differently and there are different styles and lineages. Position is important, but that comes later. You need to find a class and a teacher you like."
"I am really enjoying the classes - the concentration needed really helps to calm the mind - and the group is very friendly and welcoming."


Health benefits of Tai Chi

Studies have shown that Tai Chi has a positive impact on the following - and there are plenty of anecdotal reports on Gransnet too to back it up.

  1. Memory
  2. Posture
  3. Reduce stress
  4. Arthritis
  5. Mobility

Beginners often find that the movements of Tai Chi can be a little difficult to remember, which is why it is important to work with an understanding instructor at a dedicated Tai Chi for over 50s class. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tai Chi can actually benefit memory over time. As well as cognitive improvements, Tai Chi also has numerous physical benefits, especially for the over 50s, such as posture, balance, coordination, arthritis and even circulation. Perhaps the greatest impact of Tai Chi, however, is the feeling of wellbeing. Whilst nutrition is important in staying healthy and happy, light physical exercise is key. Often described as a lifestyle with many aspects taking years to learn, Tai Chi is an investment that will keep on rewarding you.

Gransnetters say: 

"Tai Chi definitely improves my balance and coordination - and my memory."

"I've been going to Tai Chi classes for a year now, twice a week for the past nine months. Not only is it physically beneficial, but it's wonderfully calming and uplifting. Mind, body and spirit."

"Tai Chi is brilliant for improving posture, balance, flexibility and strength."

"Since starting Tai Chi, my arthritic knees have been considerably less painful and carpal tunnel in both hands/wrists much better. Maybe the biggest benefit is the feeling of wellbeing. It's difficult to describe and, I promise you, I'm a very down to earth and practical person, but after a session of Tai Chi I just feel 'good' inside. I'd recommend it to anyone."

"I have been doing Tai Chi for many years. It is a great way of staying active and improving health."

"Most of the women in my Tai Chi group have arthritis and say that it really helps them to stay mobile. You do need an understanding teacher. Ours always advises only doing what is comfortable for you, especially the rise and fall movements. She also allows sitting down if someone needs to. They tell me that it is the relaxation element and the movement that helps."

Tai Chi or Qi Gong

What is the difference and which one should you go for? Classes often combine both forms and it is a good idea to check with the instructor to see which kind of Tai Chi they teach. The movements in Qi Gong tend to be simpler in nature and not as intricate as those in Tai Chi. 

Gransnetters say: 

"Tai Chi teaching is based on learning a 'form' or a series of exercises, which can be taxing for my memory. Qi Gong is based more on individual exercises or much shorter 'forms' or series. So you could ask at your local commune if they have Qi Gong classes - just as good and perhaps even better."

"Our lessons were split with Qi Gong being one part and that was really great." 

"The basic exercises are sometimes called Qi Gong or Gi Gong. These are sometimes given as separate classes. Tai Chi Form is the series of movements most people recognise. It takes ages to learn and most people can only get a few movements right at first. It has taken me years and I still don't know it properly! I think it is so valuable. It keeps me mobile, improves my balance and has helped to improve my osteoporosis."

"You could find a class that concentrates on the health aspect of Tai Chi, sometimes taught as Qi Gong and check with the teacher." 

"Qi Gong is wonderful for all ages, and so much easier to adapt to any weakness. I'd highly recommend." 


Tai Chi classes

You've decided that you would like to try Tai Chi - but where do you start? Many local government and charity initiatives run Tai Chi classes specifically aimed at over 50s which you could look for in the first instance. Local Age UK websites often have information about classes and related activites. It is also not uncommon for private Tai Chi instructors to offer similar classes. To find an accredited instructor and for more information, visit Tai Chi Union for Great Britain

Your local Gransnet site could also have information about Tai Chi classes near you. Why not start a thread on your local forum to see if anyone knows of any classes/groups you could join? As well as getting you a little fitter, Tai Chi is also a great way to make some new friends in your local area. 

Gransnetters say:

"It may be worth checking out your local Age Concern Centres, many of them run a range of wellbeing classes aimed at the over 50s. That's where I go for Tai Chi and it's tailored for that age group, with no expectation of precision or perfection. I love it."

"My local authority provides free classes for over 50s as part of a Falls Prevention Campaign. We have new people joining the class quite frequently and are so lucky to have a calm, friendly instructor who makes everyone feel welcome and encourages us without criticism. When I joined I was feeling very low, had poor balance and was in physical pain. Three years later I am so glad I plucked up courage to walk through the door. I feel much better and happier even on days when I'm still in pain."

"I did Tai Chi for over 50s some years ago and I'm looking for something in my new area."

"A lot of the doctors in my area are recommending Tai Chi for balance for our elderly people. We started the classes last year and I have to admit my balance has improved. In our community centre we have managed to keep the cost to £3 per class."

"Out cash strapped city council still manages to provide free over 50s' Tai Chi. There are several well attended classes around the city and we much appreciate them."

"I signed up to Tai Chi yesterday. It is fantastic and so gentle - well worth it. The class I went to is run by an Age Concern group with people there from about 55 to 70."

"I'm off today to visit my local class and get all the information with a view to joining asap."

"I started Tai Chi last September through U3A and am finding it really enjoyable. The class involves individual exercises and sequences so you don't always have to remember what movement comes next! I've found myself much more relaxed and less stressed since starting and the quietness of the class is in sharp contrast to exercise classes at the gym!"

Although the vast majority of all local councils and age-related charities in the UK offer some sort of health initiative, not all of them provide Tai Chi classes. To help you in the right direction, here are some of the places that do run these types of classes for over 50s: 


South East

South East l Eastbourne l Bracknell l Reading l Swindon** l Oxfordshire l Crawley
Southampton (Eastleigh) l Bournemouth l Portsmouth (Southsea) l Brighton l Brighton (Portslade)Thanet l Dover 



Barnet l Haringey l Waltham Forest l Islington l Thamesmead l Croydon Southwark l Richmond 
Hammersmith l Uxbridge l Brixton 


North West

Blackburn l ManchesterManchester (Ashton-under-Lyne) l Bury l Stockport l Liverpool l Liverpool (Woolton) l Lancashire l West Cumbria (Haile) l Chester l West Cumbria (Wigton) 


East of England

Norwich l CambridgeIpswich l Basildon 


West Midlands

Hereford (Leominster) l Worcester (Bidford on Avon) l West BromwichCoventry l Birmingham (Oldbury) l Redditch l Dudley l Wolverhampton


South West

Somerset l North Somerset (Weston-super-Mare) l Bristol l Bristol (Westbury on Trym)Gloucester l Bath l Plymouth 


Yorkshire and the Humber

York l Sheffield l RetfordBradford (Denholme) l Leeds l Leeds (Knottingley)Oldham l Hull


East Midlands 

Nottingham (Rushcliffe) l Nottingham (West Bridgford and Bramcote)Lincoln** l AshborneLeicester l Melton Mowbray l Earl Shilton l Burton upon Trent (Rosliston) 


North East

Newcastle l Sunderland l Darlington l Gateshead l Durham l Stanley l Newton Aycliffe l Easington l MiddlesbroughMiddlesbrough (Stockton-on-Tees)


Northern Ireland

Belfast l Derry



Midlothian l Edinburgh l Glasgow (Paisley) l Perth (Couper Angus) l Dundee l Ayr l New Galloway & Castle Douglas l Aberdeen



Penarth l Cardiff l Haverforwest (Freystrop) l Swansea l Llandudno & ColwynWrexham l Wrexham (Penley)

** specifically for people with Parkinson's Disease 


If you are considering trying out Tai Chi, we would advise that you discuss any concerns with your GP. For more information please visit the NHS advice on Tai Chi and NHS Falls Prevention guide











Images: Shutterstock


Disclaimer: The information on our diet and fitness pages is only intended as an informal guide and should not be treated as a substitute for medical advice. Gransnet would urge you to consult your GP before you begin any diet if you're concerned about your weight, have existing health conditions and/or are taking medication.