Improvement in balance, strength, and flexibility after 12 weeks of Tai chi exercise in ethnic Chinese adults with cardiovascular disease risk factors

Taylor-Piliae RE, Haskell WL, Stotts NA, Froelicher ES.

Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford University, Calif, USA.

CONTEXT: Declines in physical performance are associated with aging and chronic health conditions. Appropriate physical activity interventions can reverse functional limitations and help maintain independent living. Tai chi is a popular form of exercise in China among older adults. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether tai chi improves balance, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility over time. DESIGN: Repeated measures intervention; data collected at baseline, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks. SETTING: Community center in the San Francisco Bay Area. PARTICIPANTS: Thirty-nine Chinese adults with at least 1 cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor. INTERVENTIONS: A 60-minute tai chi exercise class 3 times per week for 12 weeks. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: A battery of physical fitness measures specifically developed for older adults assessed balance, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility. RESULTS: Subjects were 65.7 (+/- 8.3) years old, Cantonese-speaking (97%) immigrants, with 12 years or less of formal education (87%) and very low income (67%). Reported CVD risk factors were hypertension (92%), hypercholesteremia (49%), diabetes (21%), and 1 current smoker. Subjects were below the 50th percentile of fitness at baseline compared to age- and gender-specific normative US data. Statistically significant improvements were observed in all balance, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility measures after 6 weeks, and they increased further after 12 weeks. CONCLUSIONS: Tai chi is a potent intervention that improved balance, upper- and lower-body muscular strength and endurance, and upper- and lower-body flexibility in these older Chinese adults. These findings provide important information for future community-based tai chi exercise programs and support current public health initiatives to reduce disability from chronic health conditions and enhance physical function in older adults.

 

PMID: 16541997 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]