College of LAS « Illinois

Chemistry

Tai Chi May Benefit Older People

As they age, people tend to become more prone to slipping, tripping, and falling. And the results of such missteps and tumbles sometimes can be catastrophic.

That's why movement researchers are increasingly focusing on the physiological effects and potential health benefits associated with Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese martial art that combines aspects of movement and meditation. Those who practice it claim to derive a variety of beneficial effects—physical as well as mental and spiritual.

Research thus far by Karl Rosengren, a professor of psychology and kinesiology, and Yang Yang, a graduate student and Tai Chi master indicates that Tai Chi builds lower-body strength in ways that result in better control of a person's movements. "One way to think about it is, when we move through the world, muscles function to get us from Point A to Point B," Rosengren says. "We go up stairs and usually don't trip, for instance. But one thing that happens as we get older is that our ability to produce the correct level of force to achieve our desired movement declines. Tai Chi seems to improve the ability to control force."

October 2003