Tai chi’s origins begin in ancient Chinese traditions of self-defense. But the controlled, graceful movements, done in combination with purposeful breathing, have evolved the practice into a gentle form of exercise that is accessible to all ages and demographics – particularly for seniors. But don’t let the adjective ‘gentle’ dissuade your thinking that tai chi isn’t an effective form of exercise. Extensive research is available on tai chi as an important wellness approach for seniors. Here are three proven benefits of tai chi as an intervention for keeping seniors emotionally and physically healthy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3 million older adults are treated in emergency rooms each year for fall-related injuries; and falling once doubles the persons chances of falling again.
A recent review published in January of 2019 by Catherine Sherrington and eight other researchers at the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, found that exercises that focus on balance, gait, and muscle strength have been found to prevent falls in controlled trials of people over the age of 65 by 23 percent, with tai chi cutting falls by 19 percent.
Another review conducted at the University of Jaén in Spain conducted by Rafael Lomas‐Vega PhD and three other researchers specifically analyzed the effectiveness of tai chi for falls prevention of 10 randomized controlled studies. They concluded that older adults that practiced tai chi may reduce the rate of falls and injury‐related falls over the short term (<12 months) by approximately 43% and 50%, respectively.
Cognitive decline in older adults can range from difficulties remembering things, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions, and it effects more than 16 million people in the United States, according to the CDC.
A 2014 review conducted by Dr. Peter Wayne and 6 other researchers, and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that after reviewing 20 studies involving 1,264 participants, tai chi showed consistent effects on improving cognitive performance in both healthy older adults and older adults with some cognitive impairment.
Reduced blood pressure, depression, and anxiety
Depression can be common in older adults, but It should be taken seriously. It can affect almost every aspect of daily life. Physical exercise has been found to help lower the risk of depression and anxiety in older adults, particularly when practicing tai chi. Carol E. Rogers and two other researchers conducted a review, first published in the National Institute of Health Research in 2008, and found that 35 randomized controlled trials with over 3,700 participants did in fact indicate that older adults who practice tai chi may improve their physical conditions, and reduce blood pressure, depression, and anxiety.
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