Tai Chi and the Elderly
Known for its aerobic benefits, Tai chi can also improve muscle strength. This is great news for the millions of elderly who struggle to maintain their muscle mass and strength as they age. The health benefits of Tai chi are many especially for the elderly. In fact, Tai chi may be the best exercise for the elderly.
Tai chi is a traditional Chinese mind-body exercise that is gaining acceptance worldwide. It is easy on the joints which makes it particularly beneficial for the elderly, but people of all ages can benefit from it. Don’t be fooled by advertisements and TV commercials showing only the elderly performing Tai chi – middle-age individuals can benefit from Tai chi, too.
It is a form of exercise that nearly everyone can do and enjoy doing it. It is an excellent exercise to improve balance which is critical in the elderly.
Is Tai Chi the Best Exercise?
A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology showed that individuals who practiced Tai chi 1.5 hours a week for three years had healthier blood pressure, vascular resistance, and pulse pressure and greater arterial compliance. Basically, this means they had more flexible youthful blood vessels. They also had greater strength in the muscles around the knee joint. This is why some consider it to be the best exercise for the elderly.
The study involved 65 elderly individuals from Hong Kong. Twenty-nine practiced Tai chi and the other 36 did not and served as controls for the study. The improvement in arterial compliance was in the range of 40% to 44%. This was the first study designed to look at arterial compliance.
It is felt that the improvement in arterial compliance could be multi-factorial and related to aerobic training, stretching, meditation, and mental concentration resulting from the practice of traditional Chinese mind-body exercise. Other benefits of this ancient practice include better memory and balance, both critical in the elderly.
This Chinese mind-body exercise also has practical benefits. It does not require equipment and can be practiced really anywhere and at anytime that fits into one’s schedule. Some fitness clubs do offer classes, and there are plenty of DVDs and videos (some on this website) one could buy enabling them to practice this traditional Chinese mind-body exercise in the convenience of their home.
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