Evidence is mounting that Chinese exercises such as tai chi and qigong are particularly beneficial to older adults who practice them regularly. New research out of the University of Illinois supports previous research documenting the health rewards of these exercises, according to Science Daily.
Among the benefits for seniors noted by this latest study are greater balance, lower-body strength, sleep quality, concentration, energy levels and overall self-esteem.
“When you see how it translates to functional performance … how meaningful it is to their daily life—putting on jeans, taking groceries out, even the posture you have when you hold your grandchildren—the results are significant,” said lead researcher Yang Yang, a professor of kinesiology and a tai chi master.
Yang and colleagues conducted two studies, one quantitative and one qualitative, on seniors who practiced a combination of tai chi and qigong exercises three times per week for six months. Study results showed significant benefits after just two months. In addition to balance and other physical factors, participants reported tremendous improvements in mental, emotional and spiritual perspective.
“You don’t think about 70-year-olds learning new things they can carry on … this is so unexpected. This has made me feel much younger … much younger, let’s say 10 years,” one of the study participants was quoted as saying.
In the quantitative study, 39 participants and a control group of 29, with an average age of 80, underwent physical performance tests in the beginning, after two months and again after six months. A smaller qualitative study consisted of in-depth interviews with four of the study participants.
The study was also the first randomized control trial on tai chi that evaluated sensory-organization improvements in seniors. Such improvements are believed to reduce seniors’ risk of falling and suffering injury, the researchers explained.