Long-term Tai Chi practice in older adults is associated with "younger" functional abilities

Author: Yan Ma1, Brian J Gow1,2, Rhayun Song3, Pamela M Rist4, Jeffrey M Hausdorff5,6, Lewis A Lipsitz7,8, Brad Manor7,8, Peter M Wayne1
1 Osher Center for Integrative Health, Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
2 Laboratory for Computational Physiology (LCP), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
3 College of Nursing, Chungnam National University, Daejeon, Korea.
4 Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
5 Center for the Study of Movement, Cognition, and Mobility, Neurological Institute, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center; Sagol School of Neuroscience and Department of Physical Therapy, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.
6 Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
7 Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
8 Division of Gerontology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Conference/Journal: Aging Cell
Date published: 2023 Oct 31
Other: Pages: e14023 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1111/acel.14023. , Word Count: 254

Age-related alterations in physiology lead to declines in physical function that are associated with numerous adverse outcomes among older adults. Utilizing a hybrid design, we aimed to understand whether both long-term and short-term Tai Chi (TC) training are associated with age-related decline in physical function in healthy older adults. We first conducted cross-sectional comparisons among TC-naïve older adults (n = 60, 64.2 ± 7.7 years), TC-expert older adults (n = 27, 62.8 ± 7.6 years, 24.5 ± 12 years experience), and TC-naïve younger adults (n = 15, 28.7 ± 3.2 years) to inform long-term effects of TC training on physical function, including single leg stance time with eyes closed, grip strength, Timed Up and Go, maximum walking speed, functional reach, and vertical jump for lower-extremity power. There were significant differences among the three groups on all the six tests. For most functional tests, TC-experts performed better than age-matched TC-naïve controls and were statistically indistinguishable from young healthy adult controls. Long-term TC training was associated with higher levels of physical function in older adults, suggesting a potential preventative healthy aging effect. In the randomized longitudinal trial, TC-naïve subjects were randomized (n = 31 to Tai Chi group, n = 29 to usual care control group) to evaluate the short-term effects of TC over 6 months on all outcomes. TC's short-term impacts on physical function were small and not statistically significant. The impact of short-term training in healthy adults is less clear. Both potential longer-term preventive effects and shorter-term restorative effects warrant further research with rigorous, adequately powered controlled clinical trials.

Keywords: Tai Chi; aging; balance and fall; physical function.

PMID: 37905388 PMCID: PMC10776109 DOI: 10.1111/acel.14023