Tai Chi can help build strength, relieve pain

(Reuters Health) - For people with chronic illnesses ranging from cancer to arthritis, Tai chi exercises may improve walking, build strength and reduce pain, according to a new analysis of past research.

The slow and gentle movements of Tai chi, a modified form of an ancient Chinese martial art, may be especially suitable for middle aged and older people with multiple health conditions, the authors write in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

 “Given the fact that many middle-aged and older persons have more than one chronic condition, it is important to examine the benefits of treatment/exercise interventions across several co-existing conditions,” lead author Yi-Wen Chen, from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, told Reuters Health by email.

Chen’s team analyzed results from 33 studies that looked at the effects of Tai chi among people with four chronic conditions: cancer, heart failure, osteoarthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of lung disorders that make breathing difficult. Some of them also had additional health problems.

Tai chi is a set of exercises that emphasize breathing control, whole body exercises with bent knees and slow, flowing movements. In addition to strength, it can help to improve posture, balance and concentration, the researchers note.

The studies Chen and her colleagues collected had a total of more than 1,500 participants and used Tai chi as an intervention for any of the four chronic conditions.

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