The ancient Chinese martial art of tai chi has gained interest in the last few years as a preventive to falls that often leas to broken bones in the frail elderly. Researchers think that tai chi exercises help arthritis patients to improve their balance, enhance blood circulation, and ease the pain. Tai chi, also know as “shadow boxing”, combines routines of deep breathing, posturing, stretching, swaying and other controlled movements combined with medication. These aerobic exercises also add the benefit of increasing muscle strength and tone.
Tai chi exercises are related to martial arts such as karate, it is often called an “internal martial art” because it is graceful and soft, rather than hard and gymnastic. Tai chi exercise movements in the sun-style involve slow, continuous and gentle motions, which is developed just for the arthritis patients.
Researchers theorize that tai chi exercises increases the circulation, which in turn helps to reduce arthritis pain and also stimulate the repair of soft joint tissue. It is also found that performing these exercises help older people having sedentary lifestyle to regain physical functioning.
On the basis of symptoms and various physical factors, the researchers evaluated a group of 43 women with osteoarthritis who were at least 55 years old to investigate the effect of these exercises. During the 3-month study, 22 women performed the 12 forms of sun-style tai chi exercises 3 times per week, whereas the remaining 21 women did not perform these exercises and served as a control group.
After 3 months, the women in the exercise group reported significantly less pain and stiffness in their joints and had less difficulty in performing daily activities as compared to the women in the control group showed no changed or some deterioration in physical functioning. Additionally, exercise group women reported significant improvement in balance and abdominal muscle strength. Researchers also found that the women who completed the full 3 months of tai chi exercises found the movements had been easy to follow, attractive and even enjoyable.
Another study found that practicing tai chi exercises could reduce dangerous falls by about 50%. Falls can lead to debilitating hip fractures that often herald general decline and loss of mobility. It was also theorized that these exercises can be an aid to stress management as the exercises involve deep meditation. Most studies of tai chi have been small and narrowly focused. Individuals considering any exercise program should consult with a physical and a certified instructor before beginning a new routine.
Tai chi exercises can be practiced anywhere and at any time without special equipment.