The effectiveness of a recreational modality (Tai Chi Chuan) in enhancing health status in an older adult population

Date of Completion

January 2003






This study examined the health benefits of a Tai Chi Chuan exercise program with volunteers participating in a four-month recreational activity. Tai Chi Chuan can be described as moving yoga and meditation combined. A series of movements derived from the martial arts; performed slowly, softly, and gracefully, with smooth transitions between positions and emphasis on deep breathing. ^ Participants (91) were divided into three groups: two interventions, one control. Intervention: Tai Chi Chuan classes, two days/week (group 1), and one day/week (group 2). The control (group 3), attended nutrition class one day/week. All sessions were 60 minutes in length. While volunteers were recruited to participate in the study they were assigned based on town of residence and, sites were randomly assigned to host the groups. ^ Participants were 60+ years; (Mean = 71.7 years), and included 75 women and 16 men; relatively active, community dwelling, members of senior centers or residents in a senior housing unit. Group 1 (Vernon) n = 21, Group 2 (Manchester) n = 32, Group 3 (South Windsor-control) n = 38. The study examined the effectiveness of this treatment based on: attitudes about health and recreational activity, activity self-efficacy, life satisfaction, and physical testing measures (balance, blood pressure, body fat percent, flexibility, grip strength, and ratings of perceived exertion). ^ Initial results indicate significant changes in balance, blood pressure, and flexibility, among the groups, with no significant findings in health attitudes or life satisfaction. After further evaluation, both treatment groups were collapsed into one and compared with the control group. This analysis also showed evidence of significance for the treatment group, in balance, blood pressure, and flexibility. A follow-up survey of the control group showed them to be active individuals. This may explain, in some categories, why the control group showed as much improvement as the treatment groups. A third analysis, with group sizes equalized, (computer-random selection of cases), indicate significant findings for treatment groups, in balance, blood pressure, flexibility, and the mental component summary (life satisfaction) of the Health Survey. These results indicate that Tai Chi may be a useful recreational modality in a physical or cognitive rehabilitation program for older adults. ^