The ancient Chinese secret is out: New research shows seniors do their hearts and minds a world of good when they practice the traditional exercise Tai Chi.
The study, published the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, found the practice improved a key condition linked to healthy heart function and muscle strength in people who spend a least 90 minutes a week engaging in the dance-like meditative exercise.
Researchers from Hong Kong Polytechnic University tracked the health of 65 elderly people -- 29 of whom had practiced Tai Chi for at three years, and 36 with no experience with it. They found Tai Chi practitioners had better knee muscle strength and less “arterial stiffness” – when an artery fails to flex in response to blood pressure changes, a condition closely associated with heart disease.
Past studies have linked Tai Chi to improved heart function, lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart attack.
"This is the first study to investigate the possible effects of Tai Chi on arterial [stiffness] by comparing older Tai Chi practitioners with non-practitioners similar in age and activity level," said lead researcher Dr. William Tsang. “The improvement in arterial compliance could have resulted from a combination of aerobic training, stretching, mental concentration and calm meditation during Tai Chi movement."