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