50+ health * Healthy living * Mental wellbeing

T'ai chi boosts elderly health

Tai chi helps boost physical and mental wellbeing in older people Prevents falls, improves mental health

The Chinese martial art of t'ai chi can boost the physical and mental health of elderly people, a new study found.

It may also help prevent falls, which can be a serious problem for elderly people.

Researchers at the University of Exeter and the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine carried out a review of 35 studies which looked at the effect of t'ai chi on a range of conditions including cancer, heart disease, muscle strength and flexibility, balance and fall prevention and psychological well being.

The researchers said there was "relatively clear evidence" that t'ai chi was effective for improving the psychological and general health of elderly people as well as preventing falls.

However, the review also found that t'ai chi appeared to be ineffective at treating the symptoms of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory diseases.

The study authors wrote: "Our overview showed that t'ai chi, which combines deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle movements, may exert exercise-based general benefits for fall prevention and improvement of balance in older people as well as some meditative effects for improving psychological health.

"We recommend t'ai chi for older people for its various physical and psychological benefits."

The review is published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

This article was published on Tue 17 May 2011

Image © NiDerLander - Fotolia.com

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