Three medical studies on Tai Chi


   Take up Tai Chi!

Susan Aldridge, PhD

Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese form of exercise, is beneficial for older people.
Exercise is good for people of all ages, but previous research has found that half of sedentary people can't keep up a newly-adopted program of physical activity. Researchers at the Oregon Research Institute in the US have now tried Tai Chi, a gentle form of exercise originating in China, on a group of 72 people aged between 65 and 96.

Half the group had an hour long Tai Chi class twice a week, while the others were put on a waiting list. After three months the benefits of Tai Chi had become clear. Those doing the exercises were twice as likely as the controls to say they were not limited in their ability to perform moderate to vigorous activity - so their physical functioning had improved. They also felt Tai Chi was helping them relax as well as become more flexible, strong and balanced. The improvements were even greater six months into the program. Only 18 per cent dropped out of the study. So for older people who have become sedentary, Tai Chi could be a good way of returning to exercise.

Annals of Behavioral Medicine May 2001


Tai chi helps with arthritis

Susan Aldridge, PhD

Researchers in Korea find that a tai chi program improves pain and daily living activities in people with arthritis.
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese system of gentle exercise which has been long held to have a wide range of health benefits. Now researchers at Soonchunhyang University in Korea report on one of the first studies of the effects of tai chi in osteoarthritis.

Seventeen patients, average age 64, did 12 weeks of a tai chi program especially designed for use in arthritis, and were compared to 14 controls who did not do the exercises. At the end of the study, the tai chi group reported significantly less pain, and fewer difficulties in activities of daily living. They also had improved abdominal strength and balance in comparison to the controls, though there were no difference in flexibility, upper muscle or knee muscle strength. Evidently older people can benefit greatly from taking up tai chi as part of their exercise routine - but it needs to be done under medical supervision and the moves should be taught by a qualified teacher.

American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting November 12 2001


Tai Chi benefits older adults

Susan Aldridge, PhD

Older people with low fitness levels have the most to gain from regular practice of Tai Chi, according to a new study.
Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese form of exercise for health and self-defense, is ideal for older people because the movements are gentle and balanced. Previous research has suggested that regular practice of the exercises and movements can lead to real improvements in health and functioning.

Researchers at the Oregon Research Institute, in the US, now report that it's those adults over 65 who have the lowest fitness levels that improve the most by doing twice weekly Tai Chi. Those suffering from depression also had a lot to gain. Those who were fit to start with did not improve so much - suggesting that a more challenging class would be more appropriate. In other words, like any other form of exercise, Tai Chi should be tailored to the individual.

American Journal of Preventive Medicine August 2002