Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 139-146

An evaluation of the effects of Tai Chi exercise on physical function among older persons: A randomized controlled trial

  • Fuzhong Li Affiliated withOregon Research Institute Email author 
  • , Peter Harmer Affiliated withWillamette University
  • , Edward McAuley Affiliated withUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • , Terry E. DuncanAffiliated withOregon Research Institute
  • , Susan C. DuncanAffiliated withOregon Research Institute
  • , Nigel Chaumeton Affiliated withOregon Research Institute
  • , K. John FisherAffiliated withOregon Research Institute

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This study was designed to determine whether a 6-month Tai Chi exercise program can improve self-reported physical functioning limitations among healthy, physically inactive older individuals. Ninety-four community residents ages 65 to 96 (M age = 72.8 years, SD = 5.1) volunteered to participate in the study. Participants were randomly assigned to either a 6-month experimental (Tai Chi) group (n = 49), which exercised twice per week for 60 min, or a wait-list control group (n = 45). A 6-item self-report physical functioning scale, assessing the extent of behavioral dysfunction caused by health problems, was used to evaluate change in physical functioning limitations as a result of Tai Chi intervention. Results indicated that compared to the control group, participants in the Tai Chi group experienced significant improvements in all aspects of physical functioning over the course of the 6-month intervention. Overall, the experimental group had 65% improvement across all 6 functional status measures ranging from daily activities such as walking and lifting to moderate-vigorous activities such as running. It was concluded that the 6-month Tai Chi exercise program was effective for improving functional status in healthy, physically inactive older adults. A self-paced and self-controlled activity such as Tai Chi has the potential to be an effective, low-cost means of improving functional status in older persons.