Long-term Tai Chi practice in older adults is associated with “younger” functional abilities

Yan Ma, Brian J. Gow, Rhayun Song, Pamela M. Rist, Jeffrey M. Hausdorff, Lewis A. Lipsitz, Brad Manor, Peter M. Wayne*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Age-related alterations in physiology lead to declines in physical function that are associated with numerous adverse outcomes among older adults. Utilizing a hybrid design, we aimed to understand whether both long-term and short-term Tai Chi (TC) training are associated with age-related decline in physical function in healthy older adults. We first conducted cross-sectional comparisons among TC-naïve older adults (n = 60, 64.2 ± 7.7 years), TC-expert older adults (n = 27, 62.8 ± 7.6 years, 24.5 ± 12 years experience), and TC-naïve younger adults (n = 15, 28.7 ± 3.2 years) to inform long-term effects of TC training on physical function, including single leg stance time with eyes closed, grip strength, Timed Up and Go, maximum walking speed, functional reach, and vertical jump for lower-extremity power. There were significant differences among the three groups on all the six tests. For most functional tests, TC-experts performed better than age-matched TC-naïve controls and were statistically indistinguishable from young healthy adult controls. Long-term TC training was associated with higher levels of physical function in older adults, suggesting a potential preventative healthy aging effect. In the randomized longitudinal trial, TC-naïve subjects were randomized (n = 31 to Tai Chi group, n = 29 to usual care control group) to evaluate the short-term effects of TC over 6 months on all outcomes. TC's short-term impacts on physical function were small and not statistically significant. The impact of short-term training in healthy adults is less clear. Both potential longer-term preventive effects and shorter-term restorative effects warrant further research with rigorous, adequately powered controlled clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14023
JournalAging Cell
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


FundersFunder number
National Institutes of HealthR03‐AG025037
National Institute on Aging1 K01 AG044543‐01A1, 5 KL2 RR025757‐04
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health


    • Tai Chi
    • aging
    • balance and fall
    • physical function


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