A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed a link between tai chi and improved physical capacity among seniors with certain chronic conditions. The findings showed improvement among those with breast cancer, heart failure, osteoarthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Tai chi originated in ancient China and utilizes slow, flowing, gentle movements to boost muscle power and improve balance and posture. Tai chi encompasses meditation, relaxation and breath control.
The researchers’ aim was to determine the benefits tai chi could offer to life-long conditions in older adults. By exploring electronic databases, they were able to uncover relevant studies from 2014 that included people who practiced tai chi with conditions like cancer, osteoarthritis, heart failure and COPD.
From 1102 articles, 33, involving 1584 patients, were suitable for exploration. The average age of participants was between the mid-50s to early 70s. The average length of tai chi training was 12 weeks, with average sessions lasting 60 minutes. Tai chi was practiced on average two to three times a week.
Improvements from tai chi were seen in physical capacity and muscle strength in all four conditions. Symptoms including pain, stiffness, breathing disabilities and sitting time were also improved in those with osteoarthritis and COPD.
Although results are observational, they cannot be deemed definite; however, they do support previous research on tai chi and the improvement of physical capacity.
The authors wrote, “Tai chi can improve some physical performance outcomes in four chronic conditions…but not at the expense of worsening pain or dyspnea [breathlessness]. [It] may provide a suitable exercise stimulus for people with several comorbidities, and could be used as a complementary therapy in some long-term conditions.”