New Research Suggests Tai Chi Outperforms Conventional Exercise in Improving Mobility and Balance in Seniors
Findings based on 12 studies involving 2,901 participants
While tai chi is understood to be beneficial for functional mobility and balance in older adults, such benefits are not well understood due to large variance in research study protocols and observations.
Now, a new research review and analysis shows that tai chi can indeed induce greater improvement in functional mobility and balance in relatively healthy older adults compared to conventional exercise.
Researchers examined 12 studies involving 2,901 participants. Generally, tai chi, compared to conventional exercise, produces the following performance results:
- The time to complete 50-foot walking was 1.84 seconds faster.
- The time to maintain a one-leg stance was 6 seconds longer when eyes were open and 1.65 seconds longer when eyes were closed.
- Individuals improved their timed-up-and-go test performance by 0.18 points, indicating quicker standing, walking, and sitting.
- Individuals taking the functional reach test showed significant improvement with a standardized mean difference of 0.7, suggesting a noteworthy positive impact on the ability to reach and perform daily activities.
Secondary analyses revealed that the use of tai chi with relatively short duration (<20 weeks), low total time (≤24 total hours), and/or focusing on the Yang-style of this ancient form of Chinese martial arts were particularly beneficial for functional mobility and balance as compared to conventional exercise.
“This systematic literature review and meta-analysis are exciting because they provide strong evidence that tai chi is a more efficient strategy to improve functional mobility and balance in relatively healthy older adults, as compared to conventional exercise,” said Brad Manor, Ph.D., director of the Mobility and Falls Program at Hebrew SeniorLife’s Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, and associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; and Junhong Zhou Ph.D., assistant scientist II at the Hebrew SeniorLife Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, and assistant professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
“This research suggests that tai chi should be carefully considered in future studies and routines of rehabilitative programs for balance and mobility in older adults,” said Bao Dapeng, professor, Beijing Sport University.
Researchers were affiliated with the Hebrew SeniorLife Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, Harvard Medical School; School of Sport Medicine and Physical Therapy, Beijing Sport University; Sports Coaching College, Beijing Sport University; College of Physical Education and Health Science, Chongqing Normal University; and the China Institute of Sport and Health Science, Beijing Sport University.
Findings were published in the article, “The comparison between effects of taichi and conventional exercise on functional mobility and balance in healthy older adults: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis,” which appeared in Frontiers.
About Hebrew SeniorLife
Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, is a national senior services leader uniquely dedicated to rethinking, researching, and redefining the possibilities of aging. Hebrew SeniorLife cares for more than 4,500 seniors a day across six campuses throughout Greater Boston. Locations include: Hebrew Rehabilitation Center-Boston and Hebrew Rehabilitation Center-NewBridge in Dedham; NewBridge on the Charles, Dedham; Orchard Cove, Canton; Simon C. Fireman Community, Randolph; Center Communities of Brookline, Brookline; and Jack Satter House, Revere. Founded in 1903, Hebrew SeniorLife also conducts influential research into aging at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, which has a portfolio of more than $98 million, making it one of the largest gerontological research facilities in the U.S. in a clinical setting. It also trains more than 500 geriatric care providers each year. For more information about Hebrew SeniorLife, visit our website or follow us on our blog, Facebook, Instagram, Threads, and LinkedIn.