The health-related benefits of Tai Chi are being endorsed by increasing numbers of studies. A review study at the University of British Columbia revealed that chronic disease in elderly people benefits significantly from this slow-moving and smooth form of exercise.
Based on 33 studies, the University of British Columbia carried out a review into the health-related effects of Tai Chi. Tai Chi is a collection of calm exercises that has its roots in martial arts. In total approximately 1500 elderly people suffering from chronic diseases such as arthrosis, COPD and heart failure participated in the studies.
It was found that two to three hours of Tai Chi each week resulted in increased muscle strength in the arms, legs, back and abdomen. The body’s movements became more fluid, for example when walking and when standing from sitting. The balance of the body improved, which could reduce the risk of falling. Furthermore, there was a reduction in the pain and stiffness caused by arthrosis and the shortness of breath caused by COPD improved. In general, the participants reported that this resulted in a better quality of life.
A typical Tai Chi lesson starts with a warm-up. The smooth movements during this phase reduce muscle tension and attention is paid to the breathing. Then a series of Tai Chi moves are performed. For elderly people, these are mainly the slower and shorter moves. A session can end with Qigong, an exercise where the emphasis is on breathing calmly.
The health-related benefits are not limited to elderly people with chronic health problems. Anyone who wishes to remain fit and active can benefit from this.
Yi-Wen Chen, Michael A Hunt, Kristin L Campbell, Kortni Peill, W Darlene Reid, The effect of Tai Chi on four chronic conditions—cancer, osteoarthritis, heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic review and meta-analyses, Br J Sports Med doi:10.1136/bjsports-2014-094388.