Tai Chi, a form of exercise that focuses on gentle movements, balance and coordination, can help improve the psychological and physical health of older individuals, new research shows. Seniors, in particular, are at greater risk for physical and cognitive impairment, and often reduce physical activity as they age. Previous studies have shown that any regular physical activity can increase neurotransmitter activity and release endorphins, elevate mood and increase psychological health. Because tai chi is a full body exercise that can be performed with relatively minimal impact, it is an excellent choice for seniors.
A recent study examined 35 separate sources of data to determine what benefits this ancient form of exercise had on physical conditions such as hypertension, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, depression and negative moods in seniors. The data was collected from English, Korean and Chinese sources and was reviewed by researchers in South Korea and England.
Although the results were inconclusive for several of the physical conditions, the findings did show that tai chi provided clear mental health benefits and also proved an effective exercise for the prevention of falls and increased balance and coordination. However, there was no clear indication that tai chi had any positive impact on any of the other physical health conditions, with the exception of a slight improvement in arthritic symptoms, flexibility and strength.
"Our overview showed that tai 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," wrote study authors Myeong Soo Lee of the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine in South Korea, and Dr. Edzard Ernst of the University of Exeter in England. "We recommend tai chi for older people for its various physical and psychological benefits. However, tai chi may not effectively treat inflammatory diseases and cardiorespiratory disorders," they concluded.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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