Tai Chi Benefits Sedentary Adults Over 65
participants who began with low levels of physical functioning were
likely to realize rapid and sustained progress toward higher functional
levels, said lead investigator Fuzhong Li, Ph.D., from the Oregon
those "who reported low levels of health perceptions and high levels of
depression [before taking the classes] tended to benefit more in terms
of changes in physical function than those with higher perceptions of
health and lower depression," Li said.
which was conducted by Li and his colleagues in 2001, observed the
benefits of the low-impact Chinese exercise in adults over age 65.
researchers reported that older men and women who took twice-weekly tai
chi classes reported significant improvements in their self-rated
functional limitations in as little as three months. After six months,
the adults were twice as likely as a comparison group of wait-listed
adults to report not being limited in their ability to perform moderate
to vigorous activities, the study revealed.
important to determine which participants benefit most, least or both
from an intervention," Li said, adding that this information "can be
vital for developing programs more finely tailored for specific
The researchers re-analyzed their original data, taking additional participant characteristics into account, Li said.
reported more physical limitations and were wait-listed tended to
remain low functioning during the six-month study, the researchers
noted. Participants who started the study with few or no limitations
also tended to remain at their original level of functioning, whether
or not they practiced tai chi, according to the findings.
those who reported more limitations and took the classes, tended to
improve at "significantly steeper rates" over the course of the study,
according to the researchers. Lower functioning participants who
expressed the worst perceptions of their general health and reported
the most symptoms of depression were particularly likely to improve,
the research team said.
from tai chi depended on finding a class that sufficiently challenged
the individuals’ existing physical condition and the willingness
of the participants to adhere to the routine, as evidenced by more
frequent class attendance, Li said.
findings portray twice-weekly tai chi classes as an ideal option for
sedentary adults, Lisaid he and his colleagues do not discount the
value of regular training and exercise for activeindividuals. Among
high functioning subjects, those who practiced tai chi tended to
realize small, but significant, improvements in physical function, Li
noted. These improvements might be greater if these subjects were
"placed in a training class that employs more intensive/vigorous
practices to promote appreciable changes," he said.