Tai Chi has proven to be an incredibly effective form of exercise for seniors. It is not only a means through which the more active senior citizens can enjoy exercise, but it has also been adapted for use by the frailer seniors who might otherwise be living completely inactive lifestyles. As well as offering senior citizens a gentle form of exercise to enjoy, Tai Chi has also been proven to have some important health benefits for older people.
Participating in Tai Chi can help keep senior citizens more active and mobile. It can reduce the effects of age related conditions that reduce mobility, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and it can improve balance and strength to help prevent falls among the elderly.
Tai Chi has shown potential as a form of therapy for patients who are affected by rheumatoid arthritis, which is a painful and debilitating condition that commonly affects seniors. People affected by this condition have shown improved mobility following a course of Tai Chi. Participants in this study also gained a more positive mindset and they experienced less pain. Tai Chi significantly improved the health and quality of life of these patients. (Wang 2008)
Osteoarthritis is another common condition in old age that can result in reduced mobility. Tai Chi has been shown not only to increase mobility and reduce fear of falling in patients affected by this condition, but also to help to improve bone density. (Song et al. 2010)
In addition to helping to improve mobility by reducing the effects of particular conditions, Tai Chi has also helped to keep senior citizens safer by preventing falls. A fall can have serious consequences for an older person so preventing them can help to keep people out of hospital and it can even help to prevent fatalities.
Participating in Tai Chi has been shown to help reduce the number of falls among older people. This reflects the improved strength, balance and mobility that is associated with participation in Tai Chi. (Li et al 2005)
As well as actually reducing the number of falls among populations of senior citizens, Tai Chi can help people to enjoy more active lifestyles. It can boost the confidence of older people by helping to improve their strength and balance. This can have psychological effects that are just as important as the increased physical mobility. Many older people, particularly if they are very frail or if they have previously experienced a serious fall, are very concerned about their mobility. They can become fearful of falling and find even the simplest physical activities such as getting in and out of a chair daunting. This can result in significantly reduced mobility since people can become too scared to stay active and they can begin to underestimate their own abilities. The improved mobility and confidence provided by Tai Chi can not only help to keep these senior citizens safer, but it can also relive them of some serious stress and worry. It can enhance psychological well-being and improve self-esteem among senior citizens. This can not only improve their own quality of life, but it can also make life easier for their carers. (Logghe et al 2010, Wang et al 2010)
Tai Chi can help senior citizens to cope with musculoskeletal and neurological conditions, thus helping to improve mobility, to alleviate pain and to improve balance. By keeping people active later in life, Tai Chi can enable people to remain healthier and more active, which can also help to make old age more enjoyable.
Li, F. Harmer, P. Fisher, KJ. McAuley, E. Chaumeton, N. Eckstrom, E. Wilson, N. (2005) Tai Chi and Fall Reductions in Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trail. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 60(2):187-194 Available online at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15814861 Accessed 16/01/2011
Logghe, IH. Verhagen, AP, Rademaker, AC. Bierma-Zeinstra, SM. van Rossum, E. Faber, MJ. Koes, BW. (2010) The effects of Tai Chi on fall prevention, fear of falling and balance in older people: a meta-analysis. Prev Med Sep-Oct, 51(3-4):222-7. Epub Jun 15. Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20558197 Accessed 16/01/2011
Song, R. Roberts, BL. Lee, EO. Lam, P. BAE, SC. (2010) A randomized study of the effects of t’ai chi on muscle strength, bone mineral density, and fear of falling in women with osteoarthritis. J Altern Complement Med Mar 16(3):227-33. Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20192907 Accessed 16/01/2011
Wang, C. (2008) Tai Chi improves pain and functional status in adults with rheumatoid arthritis: results of a pilot single-blinded randomized controlled trial. Med Sport Sci. 52:218-29. Available online at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18487901 Accessed 16/01/2011
Wang, C. Bannuru, R. Ramel, J. Kupelnick, B. Scott, T. Schmid, CH. Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complement Altern Med May 21, 10:23 Available online at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20492638 Accessed 16/01/2011