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The movements of Tai Chi is pretty slow and I doubt that it can bring any health benefits for elderly people.

So

can Tai chi have any health benefits for elderly people?

  • Yes. Although this might be a better fit on the martial arts SE. – JohnP Jan 2 '15 at 18:03
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    I could see it either way. Tai Chi, as generally taught to senior citizens, has more to do with fitness than martial arts in my opinion. – Sean Duggan Jan 2 '15 at 18:38
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    @SeanDuggan - I can see it either way as well, but the tai chi practitioners on the MA site could probably give a much more detailed answer about the art in general and the potential benefits for elderly, as well as the precautions to take. I do martial arts but am only tangentially familiar with tai chi. – JohnP Jan 2 '15 at 21:14
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Yes, Tai Chi can provide health and fitness benefits to anyone who practices it regularly. Elderly people find that it is well suited to their physical capabilities. Tai Chi can help improve balance, mucscle strength, joint range of motion, relaxation, breathing and concentration.

Elderly people often have joint problems that are painful and can prevent them from doing other types of exercise. Tai Chi is a non-impact exercise. The slow repetitive movements are easy on the joints.

The Harvard Medical School’s Health Publication describes health benefits and references published studies. They cite studies showing improved:

  • Muscle strength
  • Flexibility
  • Reduced pain
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Improved sleep

    Although they note only some aerobic benefit with some types of Tai Chi, they do state that you may need additional cardio exercise if that has been recommended to you. They do report:

    improved levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, and C-reactive protein in people at high risk for heart disease

Tai Chi is an active meditation. The more it is performed, the greater the focus and skill level is achieved, resulting in greater results.

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This CDC Paper Tai Chi Principles for Fall Prevention in Older People lists some reasons why tai chi would be more helpful for older people than it would be for you:

Increasing age is also associated with reduced sensation in lower limbs and is consequently associated with a loss of righting reflexes and an increase in body sway, which can lead to falls... Tai Chi addresses gait problems by teaching “correct” movement of lower limbs. This is done by lifting lower limbs from the knee rather than the foot; lifting lower limbs without misaligning the pelvis; and teaching to place heel down first when moving forward (toes first when moving back). Also, teaching movement with appropriate weight transfer, posture, and slightly bent knees improves stride length.

I've only done Wii Yoga, but I can still say that balance exercises awaken long-dormant hip muscles. For seniors who are unable to quarter-squat or get up from the floor, the muscular stimulus must be even more effective.

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