Improvement in balance, strength, and flexibility after 12 weeks of Tai chi exercise in ethnic Chinese adults with cardiovascular disease risk factors

Altern Ther Health Med. 2006 Mar-Apr;12(2):50-8.


Context: Declines in physical performance are associated with aging and chronic health conditions. Appropriate physical activity interventions can reverse functional limitations and help maintain independent living. Tai chi is a popular form of exercise in China among older adults.

Objective: To determine whether tai chi improves balance, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility over time.

Design: Repeated measures intervention; data collected at baseline, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks.

Setting: Community center in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Participants: Thirty-nine Chinese adults with at least 1 cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor.

Interventions: A 60-minute tai chi exercise class 3 times per week for 12 weeks.

Main outcome measures: A battery of physical fitness measures specifically developed for older adults assessed balance, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility.

Results: Subjects were 65.7 (+/- 8.3) years old, Cantonese-speaking (97%) immigrants, with 12 years or less of formal education (87%) and very low income (67%). Reported CVD risk factors were hypertension (92%), hypercholesteremia (49%), diabetes (21%), and 1 current smoker. Subjects were below the 50th percentile of fitness at baseline compared to age- and gender-specific normative US data. Statistically significant improvements were observed in all balance, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility measures after 6 weeks, and they increased further after 12 weeks.

Conclusions: Tai chi is a potent intervention that improved balance, upper- and lower-body muscular strength and endurance, and upper- and lower-body flexibility in these older Chinese adults. These findings provide important information for future community-based tai chi exercise programs and support current public health initiatives to reduce disability from chronic health conditions and enhance physical function in older adults.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Endurance
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Postural Balance*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Tai Ji*
  • Treatment Outcome