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Fitness, Flexibility, Balance, and Confidence Improved in 12-Week Study

June 28, 2005 -- Tai chi, an ancient Chinese martial art, may improve senior citizens' strength and help them avoid falls, South Korean researchers find.

"Regular exercise is very important as we get older because when we get to 65 we start losing muscle strength at a rate of up to two percent per year" say the researchers in a news release.

It is effective in fall prevention for older people because of improvements in strength and balance, they say.

The researchers tested tai chi in older adults. The slow, gentle, and continuous movements help them develop stronger muscles, better balance control, concentration, and psychological well-being.

They found benefits including:

  • Stronger knees and ankles
  • Better balance and flexibility
  • Improved walking
  • More confidence in the ability to avoid falls

The tai chi students had fewer falls than others who didn't take the class.

'Safe and Easy Exercise'

"Tai chi exercise is recognized as a low-intensity exercise that can be safely and easily applied to older adults to prevent falls in the long-term," the researchers write.

They included Jung Hyun Choi, PhD, RN, a lecturer in the nursing department of South Korea's Daewon Science College.

Their study appears in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

About Tai Chi

Tai chi uses slow, fluid body movements. It's not a jarring form of exercise.

Tai chi has gotten attention from scientists for nearly a decade. The first two tai chi studies funded by the National Institute of Aging were published in 1996.

Those studies found many of the same benefits as seen in the new South Korean study.

Health experts want everyone to get enough exercise. That includes older adults.

Stronger seniors may be less likely to fall or to hurt themselves if they fall. That could mean staying independent for a longer time, say Choi and colleagues.

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