Tai Chi May Ward Off Aging

You may have heard of tai chi, an ancient Chinese martial art that utilizes deep breathing and slow, graceful moves to bolster balance and coordination. Groups of Chinese regularly perform tai chi together in parks and other public spaces, and the practice has been catching on in America and other locales. But besides being relaxing and promoting focus and mental clarity, research has found that tai chi has a host of other health benefits that may help slow the aging process. Among them:

  • Maintaining balance and strength. Falling is a special risk for older people, who are more prone to bone breaks and other complications than younger people are. While some studies show no apparent benefit to tai chi training, numerous others have demonstrated that elderly people who do tai chi see an increase in their balance and strength, which translates to fewer falls. They also tend to be able to perform self-care tasks with less difficulty than older people who don't do tai chi.
  • Experiencing better sleep. A group of researchers at the Oregon Research Institute has found that tai chi may aid sleep in older people. In their study, 118 older people were assigned to either a tai chi class or a low-impact exercise class for 24 weeks. After that time, they were asked to report on their sleep, including how long it took them to fall asleep, the length of time they stayed asleep, and whether they suffered any disturbances while sleeping. The tai chi group reported, on average, falling asleep 18 minutes earlier than the low-impact group and staying asleep 48 minutes longer per night.
  • Staving off the effects of diabetes. A University of Florida study of 62 diabetes patients revealed that those who participated in two tai chi sessions per week, along with three days of home practice, had significantly lower fasting blood glucose levels and higher energy levels after six months than the control group.
  • Preventing osteoarthritis. Joint pain and stiffness plague older adults with osteoarthritis, but practicing tai chi may change all that. One three-month study of 72 osteoarthritis sufferers found that those who did tai chi were able to move their joints more easily and comfortably than those who abstained.


Sources: American Federation for Aging Research, www.websites.afar.org; University of Florida, http://news.health.ufl.edu.