Tai Chi as an Alternative Exercise to Improve Physical Fitness for Children and Adolescents with Intellectual Disability

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Mar 30;16(7):1152. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16071152.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of Tai Chi (TC) on anthropometric parameters and physical fitness among children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities (ID).

Methods: Sixty-six Chinese individuals engaged in sport-related extracurricular activities (TC and aerobic exercise (AE)) as exercise interventions or arts/crafts activities as a control condition (CON). The experimental protocol consisted of a baseline assessment, a 12-week intervention period, and a post-intervention assessment.

Results: Significant interaction effect was only observed in the performance of a 6-min walk test. After 12 weeks of intervention, the AE group had significant changes in body mass index (p = 0.006, d = 0.11), sit-ups (p = 0.030 and d = 0.57), and 6-min walk test (p = 0.005, d = 0.89). Significant increases in vertical jump (p = 0.048, d = 0.41), lower-limb coordination (p = 0.008, d = 0.53), and upper-limb coordination (p = 0.048, d = 0.36) were observed in the TC group. Furthermore, the TC group demonstrated significantly greater improvements on balance compared to the control group (p = 0.011).

Conclusions: TC may improve leg power and coordination of both lower and upper limbs, while AE may be beneficial for body mass index, sit-ups and cardiorespiratory fitness.

Keywords: BMI; aerobic exercise; balance; coordination; developmental disability; flexibility; mind–body movement.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Exercise
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / rehabilitation*
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Tai Ji*