Tai Chi For Seniors
A recent study presented at the
American Heart Association meeting even found that just 12 weeks of Tai Chi
resulted in a small but significant drop in blood pressure in older people.
JoAnna M, Staff Instructor
Tai Chi movements helped seniors
improve their physical functioning.
“Researchers reported in a recent Annals of Behavioral Medicine”
Tai Chi movements combines balance, flexibility,
and toning exercises through slow, graceful actions.
Each of these aspects of fitness
contributes to overall health. Improved balance can minimize the risk of
falling, while flexibility enables you to reach into the top cupboard. Good
leg strength makes it easier to get up from a sitting position, and strong lungs
mean you can walk without getting winded.
This study was designed to
determine whether a 6-month Tai Chi exercise program can improve self-reported
physical functioning limitations among healthy, physically inactive older
individuals. Ninety-four community residents ages 65 to 96 (M age = 72.8 years,
SD = 5.1) volunteered to participate in the study. Participants were randomly
assigned to either a 6-month experimental (Tai Chi) group (n = 49), which
exercised twice per week for 60 min, or a wait-list control group (n = 45). A
6-item self-report physical functioning scale, assessing the extent of
behavioral dysfunction caused by health problems, was used to evaluate change in
physical functioning limitations as a result of Tai Chi intervention.
indicated that compared to the control group, participants in the Tai Chi group
experienced significant improvements in all aspects of physical functioning over
the course of the 6-month intervention. Overall, the experimental group had 65%
improvement across all 6 functional status measures ranging from daily
activities such as walking and lifting to moderate-vigorous activities such as
running. It was concluded that the 6-month Tai Chi exercise program was
effective for improving functional status in healthy, physically inactive older
adults. A self-paced and self-controlled activity such as Tai Chi has the
potential to be an effective, low-cost means of improving functional status in
Exercise made a difference in the baseline physical functioning
assessment, about 60% of the volunteers reported some physical limitation in
moderate-to-vigorous activities and about 25% reported difficulties with
activities of daily living (eating, dressing, bathing). At the end of the study,
more than half of those enrolled in the Tai Chi class who had reported
functional limitations at the start of the study indicated improvement. This is
consistent with other studies showing the benefits of Tai Chi for seniors --
most notably, in reducing falls. There was some improvement also noted in the
control group, but much less than in the Tai Chi group.
While each of these
aspects of fitness can be gained through other activities, Tai Chi is
particularly well suited for older individuals because it is a non-impact
exercise. In the United States, it is no longer unusual to see individuals or
groups practicing their Tai Chi movements – gently rotating arms, spines and
limbs and posturing themselves into various positions -- in local parks or other
outdoor spaces. These motions are going on at a YMCA’s, senior centers or adult
education classes. Like acupuncture and other traditional Chinese remedies, the
benefits of Tai Chi are proving a useful adjunct to western medicine.
Source* An evaluation of the effects of Tai Chi exercise on physical function
among older persons: a randomized controlled trial. F. Li, P. Harmer, E. McAujey,
et al., Ann Behav Med., 2001, vol. 23, pp. 139--146