Tai Chi, Resistance Exercises and Anti Aging for Older Adults[Tai Chi is a martial art widely practiced in China. Essentially, it is a martial art in slow motion that focuses on balance, breathing and harmony. Many older persons, especially in Asia, practice Tai Chi as a primary form of exercise.
In the West, resistance training is more popular; resistance exercises focus on building muscle by pulling against bands or other forms of resistance. These types of exercises are often recommended for older adults.
A Study of Tai Chi versus Resistance versus No ExerciseTo find out if low-intensity exercise mattered for older adults, researchers in China enrolled 180 people (aged 65-74) in a study. Half the people were women and half were men. The people were randomly assigned to participant in 12 months of Tai Chi classes, 12 month of resistance exercise classes, or no classes. Those in classes were asked to participate 3 times a week. At the beginning and the end of the study, all participants had their bone density, balance, flexibility and strength tested.
Over the 12 months, people were actively engaged in their Tai Chi or resistance exercise classes. Eighty-one percent of the Tai Chi participants stuck with it for 12 months and 76% of the resistance exercise people kept up. Overall, there was no difference in the three groups in men. Women showed an improvement in their rate of loss of bone compared to the group that did nothing.
So Tai Chi Classes and Resistance Training Don't Help?Hard to say. This was a small study and we don't know very much about the level of intensity that people participated at. That said, if Tai Chi and resistance were fantastic, we would have expected to see some more impressive results. The people in the no exercise group did not necessarily not exercise -- they could have exercised everyday.
I think that is where this study fails -- not only might some of the people in the "control" group exercised, people in China are typically much more active than people in the U.S. It could be that no difference was seen because everyone started out with relatively healthy, active lifestyles. In the U.S., we might see a much greater difference between people in formal exercise programs and people just going about their daily lives. Another point is that greater benefits for both resistance exercises and Tai Chi have been shown in younger people -- the main difference is probably the intensity the younger people do the exercises at -- so the more effort you put in, the better your results.
What Exercise Should I Do?Tough question. You should probably be as active as possible, considering any health conditions you might have. We have seen in other studies that people who start exercising late in life can significantly improve their health and longevity. In fact, exercise can even make your DNA younger. Find an exercise approach that works for you and get moving!
Source(s): Jean Woo, Athena Hong, Edith Lau and Henry Lynn. A randomized controlled trial of Tai Chi and resistance exercise on bone health, muscle strength and balance in community-living elderly people. Age and Ageing 2007 36(3):262-268
Jean Woo, Athena Hong, Edith Lau and Henry Lynn. A randomized controlled trial of Tai Chi and resistance exercise on bone health, muscle strength and balance in community-living elderly people. Age and Ageing 2007 36(3):262-268