Effect of 4- and 8-wk Intensive Tai Chi Training on Balance Control in the Elderly

TSANG, WILLIAM W.N.; HUI-CHAN, CHRISTINA W.Y.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: April 2004 - Volume 36 - Issue 4 - pp 648-657
APPLIED SCIENCES: Biodynamics

TSANG, W. W. N., and C. W. Y. HUI-CHAN. Effect of 4- and 8-wk Intensive Tai Chi Training on Balance Control in the Elderly. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 36, No. 4, pp. 648–657, 2004.

Purpose: The objective of this study was to examine whether 4 and/or 8 wk of intensive Tai Chi practice could improve balance control in the healthy elderly subjects.

Methods: Forty-nine community-dwelling elderly subjects (aged 69.1 ± SD 5.8 yr) voluntarily participated in an intervention program of either supervised Tai Chi or general education for 1.5 h, 6× wk−1 for 8 wk. Two balance tests were administered using computerized dynamic posturography before, at 4 and 8 wk during training, and at 4 wk after training ended: 1) the sensory organization test measured subjects’ abilities to use somatosensory, visual, and vestibular information to control their body sway during stance under six sensory conditions; and 2) the limits of stability test measured subjects’ abilities to voluntarily weight shift to eight spatial positions within their base of support. These outcome measures were compared between the two intervention groups, and with those of experienced Tai Chi practitioners having means of 7.2 and 10.1 yr of practice from two previous studies.

Results: Statistical analysis demonstrated that, after 4 and 8 wk of intensive Tai Chi training, the elderly subjects achieved significantly better 1) vestibular ratio in the sensory organization test (P = 0.006) and 2) directional control of their leaning trajectory in the limits of stability test (P = 0.018), when compared with those of the control group. These improvements were maintained even at follow-up 4 wk afterward. Furthermore, the improved balance performance from week 4 on was comparable to that of experienced Tai Chi practitioners.

Conclusions: The above findings indicated that even 4 wk of intensive Tai Chi training are sufficient to improve balance control in the elderly subjects.

Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong (SAR), CHINA

Address for correspondence: Christina W. Y. Hui-Chan, Ph.D., Chair Professor and Head, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong; E-mail: rschris@inet.polyu.edu.hk.

Submitted for publication June 2003.

Accepted for publication December 2003.

©2004The American College of Sports Medicine