Tai Chi, a combination of Qigong meditation and exercise, has been found helpful for improving functional balance among older people. Researchers at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) studied the influence of a Tai Chi-Qigong exercise training program on the sensory and biomechanical balance mechanisms (Yang et al., 2007).
A total of 49 healthy older adults with a mean age about 80 joined in the study and the test group for the Tai Chi-Qigong (TQ) training. The training was 1 hour per session, 3 sessions each week and lasted for half a year.
The study found that vestibular ratio scores were remarkably improved in the TQ group, compared with the control group. In addition, the TQ group had an increase in quiet stance Base of Support (BoS) while the feet opening angle did not change. This meant that the increase in BoS was caused by wider stances.
These findings indicate that the Tai Chi-Qigong training may promote the use of vestibular input and lead to wider stances. These may be the mechanisms of the benefits on older adults’ balance functions. More studies are necessary to find out the neurological mechanisms such as the effects on the brain.
Yang, Y., Verkuilen, J. V., et al. (2007) Effect of combined Taiji and Qigong training on balance mechanisms: a randomized controlled trial of older adults. Med Sci Monit 13, CR339-348.