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Tai Chi for Better Health

Tai Chi May Benefit Patients with Chronic Conditions

Though the art of Tai Chi originated in the ancient East, its applications and benefits are abundant in the modern West. This low-to-moderate intensity and impact activity is a suitable exercise for the general population and may be specifically relevant to those of older ages. A 2015 meta-analysis from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found Tai Chi may be beneficial for older adults with chronic diseases.

Canadian researchers compiled 33 studies, including a total of 1,584 participants, which looked at how Tai Chi improved conditions for patients with cancer, heart failure, osteoarthritis and chronic pulmonary disease (COPD). The most important findings were the benefits of Tai Chi to walking ability, muscle strength and quality of life in most of the four chronic conditions. Tai Chi also improved pain and stiffness in those with osteoarthritis, depression in those with heart failure, and fatigue in those with cancer. In many study cases, Tai Chi was the more successful intervention over other methods or controls.

Tai Chi is a Chinese practice that emphasizes the fusions of Yin and Yang, representing balance and unity. There are multiple styles of Tai Chi but all are founded on gentle and flowing movements, where each posture flows into the next without pause, keeping the body in constant slow motion. The practice involves a combination of strengthening, concentration, balance, breath control and relaxation, and has been linked to better fitness, fall prevention, flexibility and cardio-respiratory function.

If you have never given Tai Chi a try, it is not too difficult to start. The practice requires no special equipment and can be done inside or outdoors, alone or in a group. You can follow a video online or look for Tai Chi classes at local fitness clubs or senior centers.

BONUS: Have back pain? Try Pilates! A study found patients with chronic lower back pain saw a 30% improvement in pain and 36% improvement in daily functions such as walking and climbing stairs after attending Pilates sessions twice a week for 90 days.

Published November 1, 2015

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