Contact: Jerry Carey
Researchers Find Tai Chi Yields Significant Physical
and Mental Health Benefits
(2/16/06)—Researchers from the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine have found that older individuals who engage in tai chi - a Chinese martial art known for its slow dance-like movements - experience significant physical and psychological benefits.
"Tai chi appears to provide the kind of physical, emotional and psychological benefits that are essential for helping older individuals remain independent," said Brian Frye, the project coordinator for NJISA. "The volunteers who participated in tai chi classes reported a better overall sense of feeling healthy - they felt less anxious and less depressed, and they were measurably less afraid of falling. They also reported a 23 percent increase in the quality of their sleep, experienced a 33 percent increase in their flexibility and a 38 percent decrease in the amount of pain they experienced on a regular basis."
The tai chi study was funded through the Foundation of UMDNJ and the Office of the Dean at the School of Osteopathic Medicine. The 12-week study began in September. NJISA researchers assessed all of the volunteers for their physical condition and mental status, and then the volunteers were then randomly assigned to one of three groups: tai chi, low-impact exercise or a control group. At the end study, researchers repeated the assessments on each volunteer and measured any changes in mental and physical abilities.
"We already knew that older individuals benefit from regular exercise, but this is one of the first studies to directly compare the effectiveness of tai chi to more traditional forms of exercise," Dr. Rachel Pruchno, director of research at NJISA said. "We plan to continue our research in this area to learn what other benefits can be derived from specific types of exercise and how best to sustain those benefits into the later years."
To request an interview with Dr. Pruchno, please contact Jerry Carey, University News Service, at (856) 566-6171 or (973) 972-3000.