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Functional Benefits of Tai Chi in Senior Housing Facilities

August 15, 2014 - Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Taiwan National Central University collaborated in a study to determine the effects of Tai Chi training on functional performance and walking with and without the addition of the performance of a cognitive task, in older adults living in supportive housing facilities.

They used secondary data analysis comparing a single-blind, randomized controlled trial of Tai Chi training with an attention-matched educational control intervention with crossover to Tai Chi. Sixty-six men and women living in 2 supportive housing facilities entered the study, and 57 aged 80 to 94 completed all study procedures.

Interventions consisted of two 1-hour-long instructor-led group sessions per week for 12 weeks. Tai Chi training consisted of movements based upon the Yang-style short form. Educational sessions consisted of lectures and discussions of age-related health topics.

Subjects were tested for physical function (Short Physical Performance Battery, SPPB), balance (Berg Balance Scale, BBS), mobility (timed up-and-go, TUG), and walking speed under normal and cognitive dual-task conditions.

After the experiment, the Tai Chi group exhibited greater improvement in SPPB scores than the control group. Tai Chi also increased normal and dual-task walking speed yet did not affect BBS or TUG after accounting for multiple comparisons. The dual-task cost (percentage change) to walking speed was unaffected. After the crossover Tai Chi intervention, the control group improved performance in the SPPB, BBS, and TUG, and increased walking speed under normal and dual-task conditions.

The researchers concluded that Tai Chi training may be a safe and effective therapy to help improve physical function and dual-task walking in very old adults living in supportive housing facilities.

This study is published in the August 2014 issue of Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.




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