Weekly Wellness: Have you tried tai chi?
COLUMBIA - Tai chi is a Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and health benefits. While tai chi is great for all ages, it is wonderful for aging clients as it improves balance and enhances cognitive function – which can help to decrease fall risk.
There has been extensive research done to study the benefits of tai chi. Since 2010, more than 50 reviews have been published in scientific journals, specifically focusing on risk of falls, cancer, Parkinson’s patients, among other diseases and health conditions.
The evidence suggests tai chi is an efficient, cost-effective way to improve static and dynamic balance, reduce fear of falling and potentially decrease the prevalence of falls in elderly people (Jimenez-Martin et al. 2013; Leung et al. 2011; Hackney & Wolf 2014; Liu & Frank 2010). Researchers caution that tai chi may not be as beneficial for frail and severely deconditioned older adults because they cannot perform the movements with sufficient intensity and duration to achieve significant protection against falls. Even so, a review in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine concluded that tai chi was more effective than other measures for preventing falls in at-risk populations (del-Pino-Casado, Obrero-Gaitan & Lomas-Vega 2016).
Tai chi can improve cognition in older adults (Wu et al. 2013; Zheng et al 2015; Wayne et al. 2014; Miller & Taylor-Piliae 2014). Cognition includes executive function, language, learning and memory. Executive function is an umbrella term for a range of cognitive processes, including attention, working memory, problem-solving, processing speed, mental flexibility and other tasks. Although it is difficult to pin down exactly how tai chi improves cognition, it appears that practicing the movements can significantly enhance global and executive functioning in people with either no or mild cognitive impairment and may protect against cognitive decline.
There are a number of tai chi classes available in the Columbia area through the Columbia Parks and Rec.