Effects of exercise on joint sense and balance in elderly men: Tai Chi versus golf.

Tsang WW, Hui-Chan CW.

Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong (SAR), China.

PURPOSE: Our previous studies showed that experienced Tai Chi practitioners had better joint proprioception and balance control during weight shifting. The objective of the present study was to examine whether experienced golfers had attained similar improvement when compared with the Tai Chi practitioners, as well as healthy elderly subjects and young university students. METHODS: We compared 12 experienced elderly Tai Chi practitioners, with 11 experienced elderly golfers, 12 healthy elderly subjects, and 12 young university students, who were all males, using: 1) passive knee joint repositioning test to assess their joint proprioceptive acuity and 2) limits of stability test to assess their ability to voluntarily weight shift within their base of support. RESULTS: Both Tai Chi practitioners and golfers had better knee joint proprioceptive acuity than did the elderly control subjects (P < 0.05). Of special interest is that their performance was similar to that of the young subjects. In the limits of stability test, Tai Chi practitioners and golfers had faster reaction time, leaned further without losing stability, and showed better control of leaning trajectory than did elderly control subjects (all P < 0.05). The latter two outcome measures were also comparable to those of the young subjects. CONCLUSION: These results demonstrate that both experienced Tai Chi practitioners and golfers had improved knee joint proprioception and limits of stability, when compared with those of elderly control subjects similar in age, gender (male), and physical activity level. Such improved outcome measures were comparable to those of young male subjects. These findings suggest that experienced Tai Chi practitioners and golfers had improved joint proprioceptive acuity and dynamic standing balance control, despite the known aging effects in these specific sensorimotor functions.

PMID: 15064594 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]