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Effectiveness of a Tai Chi Intervention for Improving Functional Fitness and General Health Among Ethnically Diverse Older Adults With Self-Reported Arthritis Living in Low-Income Neighborhoods: A Cohort Study

Dogra, Shilpa PhD1; Shah, Suhayb BSc2; Patel, Meghavi BSc2; Tamim, Hala PhD2

Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy: April/June 2015 - Volume 38 - Issue 2 - p 71–77
doi: 10.1519/JPT.0000000000000016
Research Reports

Background and Purpose: Tai Chi (TC) is a form of low to moderate physical activity that has been shown to significantly impact health and functional fitness among older adults; the impact of TC on the health and functional fitness of older adults with arthritis is not well understood. The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of a 16-week TC intervention for improving functional fitness and self-reported general health among older adults with arthritis who were born outside Canada and were residing in low-income neighborhoods.

Methods: A 16-week intervention was conducted among older adults residing in 1 of 2 specified low-income neighborhoods in Canada. The analysis was limited to those who self-reported having arthritis (n = 102). Participants were encouraged to attend 2 moderate-intensity TC sessions per week for a total of 120 minutes. Functional fitness and health were assessed at baseline and at 16 weeks.

Results: Average attendance was 1.1 sessions per week. Functional fitness assessment results indicated that right-hand grip strength (25.6 ± 8.2 to 26.7 ± 7.8 kg), left-hand grip strength (24.9 ± 7.3 to 26.8 ± 7.1 kg), 30-second arm curl (15.6 ± 5.0 to 18.6 ± 5.7 repetitions/30 s), Timed Up-and-Go (7.4 ± 2.6 to 6.9 ± 2.6 s), and 30-second chair stand (12.0 ± 3.9 to 15.4 ± 5.8 s) improved significantly (P < 0.05) from baseline to 16 weeks. Results from the Short Form-36 indicate that physical functioning (73.1 ± 19.9 to 80.3 ± 19.4; P = 0.001), general health (61.5 ± 20.9 to 66.0 ± 20.4; P = 0.03), vitality (61.5 ± 18.9 to 67.5 ± 20.2; P = 0.008), and mental health (74.3 ± 16.5 to 78.5 ± 17.7; P = 0.04) also improved significantly over the intervention period. Improvements in physical health and physical function scores were clinically meaningful.

Discussion and Conclusions: Participating in TC for 16 weeks led to significant improvements in functional fitness and components of physical and mental health among older adults with self-reported arthritis. Tai Chi seems to be a valuable mode of physical activity for this population.

1Faculty of Health Sciences, Kinesiology Department, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

2School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Address correspondence to: Shilpa Dogra, PhD, Faculty of Health Sciences, Department of Kinesiology, 2000 Simcoe Street North, Science Building, Room 3000, Oshawa, ON L1H 7K4, Canada (

The project was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada–Sport Participation Research Initiative.

This work has been presented at the World Congress on Active Aging (Glasgow, 2012).

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2015 the Section on Geriatrics of the American Physical Therapy Association