How Tai Chi in later life is good for the heart: Elderly who perform exercises lower blood pressure
PUBLISHED: 01:02, 5 April 2012 | UPDATED: 01:02, 5 April 2012
Practising the ancient martial art of tai chi can boost elderly people’s hearts, a study has found.
Older subjects who regularly performed the traditional Chinese mind-body exercise now enjoyed worldwide were less likely to suffer high blood pressure and were physically stronger.
Researchers said a work-out which can achieve both good heart function and muscle power ‘would be a preferred mode of training’ for this group of society.
Heart pulse measurements showed it improved expansion and contraction of the arteries – known as arterial compliance – and increased knee muscle strength.
A number of studies have shown strength training to improve muscle function and offset the effects of ageing have also been accompanied by a decline in arterial compliance.
Tai Chi could be a suitable exercise for older people to avoid this problem, according to the findings published online in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Arterial stiffness – when an artery fails to distend or rebound in response to pressure changes – is closely associated with cardiovascular diseases.
So arterial compliance has been identified as an important predictor of heart health in the elderly and a therapeutic target for physical exercise in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
The study involved 65 elderly subjects from Hong Kong, 29 recruited from local Tai Chi clubs who had each practised it for at least 90 minutes hours a week for three years and 36 controls with no such experience.
Initial results showed the Tai Chi subjects were better in almost all medical observations including blood pressure, vascular resistance and pulse pressure.
Measurements also showed that both large and small artery compliance was significantly higher in the Tai Chi group (by 40-44per cent).
Additional analysis showed that the Tai Chi subjects had greater average muscle strength.
Tai Chi is well known for its aerobic affects. The effect of Tai Chi training in lowering blood pressure has also been extensively reviewed.
Principal investigator Dr William Tsang from the The Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong said: ‘However this is the first study to investigate the possible effects of Tai Chi on arterial compliance by comparing older Tai Chi practitioners with non-practitioners similar in age and activity level.
‘The improvement in arterial compliance could have resulted from a combination of aerobic training, stretching, mental concentration and calm meditation during Tai Chi movement.’
The study findings showed older Tai Chi practitioners have better arterial compliance and knee muscle strength than their healthy counterparts.
And because it can be practised any time and anywhere without the constraints of equipment or a gymnasium Dr Tsang said it could be a good exercise strategy for older adults, both for heart health and muscle strengthening.