Tai chi practice can help older adults with heart failure, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and breast cancer to improve strength, balance and posture, according to a research review of 33 studies involving more than 1,500 subjects (The British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2015; doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-094388).

The average age range of study participants was mid-50s to early 70s, and the average duration of tai chi practice was two to three 1-hour sessions per week for 12 weeks. Researchers at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, conducted the review to determine whether tai chi could be an effective physical activity for people with an assortment of chronic conditions. Ninety percent of Canadians live with at least one such condition, and for adults over age 65, the prevalence increases to 98%.

Fitness professionals may want to recommend tai chi practice for clients with multiple chronic conditions who find other forms of exercise too strenuous. As of 2012, about 50% of American adults had one or more chronic health conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 25% had two or more. This may be one reason why tai chi is increasing in popularity. The IHRSA Health Club Seasonal Trend Report (Fall 2014) listed tai chi and cardio kickboxing as the two most popular group exercise programs among men.

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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