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If you are looking for exercise that can improve both cardiovascular function and muscle strength, you may be surprised to learn that tai chi fits the bill. In fact, the authors of a new study explain that tai chi “would be a preferred mode of training for older persons” who want to achieve healthy arteries and knee muscle strength. Tai chi benefits older adults in various ways.
A common condition among older adults is arterial stiffness, which occurs when arteries are unable to rebound in response to changes in pressure. Thus arterial compliance is an important predictor of cardiovascular disease, a major health concern among older adults.
Advancing age is also associated with a decline in muscle strength, and older adults are encouraged to engage in exercises that help maintain their strength. Now a new study that involved 65 elderly adults found that those who practiced tai chi regularly (1.5 hours per week for 3 years) had better arterial compliance and greater muscle strength than their peers who did not practice.
Adults who practiced tai chi regularly had significantly higher (40%-44%) arterial compliance than did adults who did not participate in tai chi. Average muscle strength in the knees (both in knee extensors and flexors) was also greater in tai chi practitioners than in the control group. Other tai chi benefits included improvements in blood pressure and pulse pressure.
Lu X et al. Tai chi, arterial compliance, and muscle strength in older adults. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology 2012 Apr 4