Tai Chi Lowers Blood Pressure
T'ai Chi -- the slow-motion form of exercise popular in China -- can reduce blood pressure in older adults as much as regular aerobic exercise, but without speeding up their heart rates, according to researchers.
These findings "suggest that (exercise) intensity may be less important than other factors" when it comes to lowering high blood pressure, conclude researchers led by Dr. Deborah Rohm Young of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Maryland. Their study is published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The researchers focused on a group of 62 overweight, hypertensive individuals over 60 years of age. Subjects were assigned to 3 months of either moderate aerobic workouts or T'ai Chi, with each regimen consisting of 30 to 45 minutes of exercise four to five times per week.
The authors chose the popular Yang style of T'ai Chi, which they describe as "13 movements practiced in sequence in a slow, fluid and continuous manner." They report that at the end of the 3-month period, the T'ai Chi program "reduced blood pressure to an extent similar to a program of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise." Systolic blood pressure (the first number in a reading) declined by an average of 8.4 mm Hg in the T'ai Chi group, and by 7.0 mm Hg in the aerobics group. Diastolic pressure (the second number in a reading) fell by an average of 3.2 mm Hg and 2.4 mm Hg, respectively.
According to Young's team, these results suggest that even low-intensity exercise can produce real health benefits for older individuals with high blood pressure. They point out that "many older adults, particularly women, have had little or no experience with exercise and may find even moderate-intensity activity undesirable." T'ai Chi, which can be performed anywhere and requires no special clothing or gear, "may be desirable to older adults who do not identify themselves as 'exercisers'," they conclude.
SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society March, 1999;47:277-284.
The research abstract,"Tai Chi Lowers Blood Pressure" was found at http://jaxmed.com/articles/new_notable/March99.htm