Objective: To evaluate the health-related fitness of geriatric Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) practitioners.
Design: Case-control study of a TCC group and a group of sedentary controls.
Setting: Research project at a hospital-based exercise physiology laboratory.
Participants: Seventy-six community-dwelling senior persons (mean age 69.3 +/- 3.9 yr), a TCC group that included 22 men and 19 women and a control group of sedentary subjects that included 18 men and 17 women with matched age and body size.
Intervention: The TCC group had practiced TCC regularly for 11.8 +/- 5.6 years, with an exercise frequency of 4.3 +/- 1.3 times per week. Each session included 20 minutes of warm-up, 24 minutes of TCC training, and 10 minutes of cool-down. Exercise intensity was estimated to exceed 70% of maximal heart rate (HRmax).
Main outcome measure: Breath-by-breath measurement of cardiorespiratory function was obtained during the incremental exercise of leg cycling. Flexibility of thoracic/lumbar spine was measured by an electronic inclinometer. Percentages of body fat was calculated from biceps and subcapsular skinfolds.
Results: In the peak exercise, men in the TCC group showed 19% higher peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) in comparison with their sedentary counterparts (26.9 +/- 4.7 mL/kg/min vs 21.8 +/- 3.1 mL/kg/min). Women in the TCC group also showed 18% higher VO2peak than in the sedentary group (20.1 +/- 2.9 mL/kg/ min vs 16.5 +/- 2.0 mL/kg/min). The TCC group also showed higher oxygen uptake at the ventilatory threshold. In addition, the TCC practitioners were characterized by greater flexibility and lower percentage of body fat in comparison with their sedentary counterparts.
Conclusion: It is concluded that TCC training has benefits for health-related fitness, and it may be prescribed as a suitable conditioning exercise for the elderly.