Being able to stand behind a waterfall is not vital for the practice of Tai chi, although it does look appealing. The ancient Chinese martial art of Tai chi has been practised for thousands of years both as a defence training and for its health benefits and improvement in longevity. As the population ages, the ability to remain independent and be able to carry out all of the daily living activities will become vital to a person's quality of life. Research is showing that practices such as Tai chi and Qi gong have many benefits that can help the elderly to remain active and independent for longer. It is not only the elderly that can benefit, new research also shows that Tai chi can be of benefit to patients with Parkinson's disease. Here we report on three of the latest studies that show clear evidence of the benefits of Tai chi.
Balance and stability in the elderly
A recent study looked at the effects of specially designed form of Tai chi as a stability therapy for the elderly. The study judged a patient's ability to maintain the centre of gravity by measuring the speed of movement, ease of direction control and distance they could achieve. Patients participated in the adapted tai chi classes twice a week for forty eight weeks and results showed that the end of the study they showed significant improvement in all of the measured parameters.
Improving motor function and balance in Parkinson's disease
There has been some controversy over whether or not tai chi really can help improve symptoms in patients with Parkinson's disease. A paper was published recently that reviewed all of the Tai chi / Parkinson's studies to date. All of the studies that were included in the review assessed motor function, balance and gait in Parkinson's patients. Results showed that Tai chi improved motor function, balance and functional mobility, but that only tai chi improved balance when compared to other therapies.
Muscle strength, bone mineral density and balance in elderly women
A recent study compared the effects of Tai chi exercise on the bone density, muscle strength and balance in elderly women to the effects of dance therapy and walking therapy. Interestingly after 4 months of therapy the dance and walking groups showed improvement in the test parameters whereas the Tai chi group did not. After 8 months of therapy the Tai chi group showed the same significant improvements that the dance and walking groups showed. After 12 months of therapy, the Tai chi group showed greater benefits than both the walking and dance groups, indicating that the benefits of Tai chi are as a long term life long therapy.
More articles on Tai chi and Qi gong: