Functional benefits of tai chi training in senior housing facilities

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014 Aug;62(8):1484-9. doi: 10.1111/jgs.12946.


Objectives: To determine the effects of tai chi training on functional performance and walking with and without the addition of the performance of a cognitive task, in older adults living in supportive housing facilities.

Design: Secondary data analysis comparing a single-blind, randomized controlled trial of tai chi training with an attention-matched educational control intervention with crossover to tai chi.

Setting: Two supportive housing facilities.

Participants: Sixty-six men and women living in supportive housing facilities entered the study, and 57 aged 87±7 completed all study procedures.

Intervention: Interventions consisted of two 1-hour-long instructor-led group sessions per week for 12 weeks. Tai chi training consisted of movements based upon the Yang-style short form. Educational sessions consisted of lectures and discussions of age-related health topics.

Measurements: Subjects were tested for physical function (Short Physical Performance Battery, SPPB), balance (Berg Balance Scale, BBS), mobility (timed up-and-go, TUG), and walking speed under normal and cognitive dual-task conditions.

Results: The tai chi group exhibited greater improvement in SPPB scores (baseline 8.1±2.9, follow-up 9.0±2.6) than controls (baseline 8.2±2.6, follow-up 8.2±2.6) (P=.005). Tai chi also increased normal and dual-task walking speed (P<.001) yet did not affect BBS (P=.02) or TUG (P=.02) after accounting for multiple comparisons. The dual-task cost (percentage change) to walking speed was unaffected. After the crossover tai chi intervention, the control group improved performance in the SPPB, BBS, and TUG, and increased walking speed under normal and dual-task conditions (P=.008).

Conclusion: Tai chi training may be a safe and effective therapy to help improve physical function and dual-task walking in very old adults living in supportive housing facilities.

Keywords: frailty; gait; mobility; randomized controlled trial; tai chi.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly
  • Housing for the Elderly*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Postural Balance
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Tai Ji*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Treatment Outcome