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Tai Chi Exercise Empowers Elders
Professor David J. Demko, PhD
AgeVenture News Service

Those who are as "old as the hills" are turning to an exercise regimen as "old as father time" ... Tai Chi. Hmmmmm. "What are the benefits", you wonder. Or better yet, what's the point? Well, why not read on and see for yourself. When you do, you'll find it's an exercise in good judgement.

Hong Kong elder at Tai Chi Lots of healthy lifestyle habits can begin at any time during one's life. Of course, as the saying goes ... "the sooner, the better". However, an equally popular slogan says "It's never too late" ... and that includes exercise.

There's plenty of research to support the notion that people as old as 90 can begin, and benefit from, an exercise program. "Okay", you say. "But what's the point at my age ... no need to try and become another Charles Atlas." Right. But there are benefits to toning your body. These benefits include being able to carry a bag of groceries or lift a grandchild to your knee. So how, exactly, do you begin to get those old bones limber again?

The low-impact Chinese exercise, Tai Chi, can help older people regain some of the physical functioning that they may have lost to inactivity, according to a new study reported by the Center for the Advancement of Health. Seniors taking Tai Chi classes reported better physical functioning both at the three-month mid-point and the six-month end of the pilot study, says Fuzhong Li, Ph.D., of the Oregon Research Institute.

Elders aged 65 to 96 were split into a group that went to an hour-long class twice a week for six months and a control group that was promised a four-week class at the end of the study. "We found significant improvements within three months on a low-intensity program conducted twice a week. Our results also showed improved benefits from six months of participation, suggesting that additional health gains can be derived from a longer period of participation," say Dr. Li and colleagues.

They contrast this with previous research on exercise programs that suggests much longer periods are needed to show significant improvements in functioning. On completion of the study, the Tai Chi students were also twice as likely as the control group to report not being limited in their ability to perform moderate-to-vigorous activities.

In comparison to previous research which shows that half of sedentary people are unable to maintain a newly adopted exercise program, says Dr. Li, these findings were also unique in that only 18 percent of participants dropped out of the Tai Chi class. Members of the classes described the lessons as a positive experience with wide ranging benefits that both energized and relaxed them. They felt it had helped them build better flexibility, balance an strength.

See related articles in AgeVenture archives.
Longevity Tips from Hong Kong's City of Life
Don't Let Fitness Become An Exercise in Futility
Fitness After 50 Exercise Guide and Video
Elder Fitness An Exercise in Self-Confidence
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