Practicing the ancient Chinese martial art of Tai Chi boosts the health of older people by lowering blood pressure and strengthening joints, a new study has revealed.

The Tai Chi mind-body technique involves slow, repetitive movements based on co-ordination and relaxation, rather than muscular tension.

Scientists from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University believe that by focusing the mind solely on the movements, it helps bring on a state of mental calm, which ultimately lowers blood pressure and helps to maintain a healthy heart.

Researchers discovered that people who practiced the technique recorded an improvement in the expansion and contraction of the arteries (also known as arterial compliance), which helps stave off cardiovascular disease.

They also noted a significant improvement in knee muscle strength.

The investigation involved 65 elderly participants from Hong Kong – 29 recruited from local Tai Chi clubs and spent 90 minutes a week for three years.

Heart measurements from each participant revealed a difference between those who practiced Tai Chi and those who didn’t – with the latter having 44% higher risk of heart disease than the Tai Chi group.

The study urged that this type of light, therapeutic exercise should be the “preferred mode of training’ for elderly people.


Although Tai Chi has long been known for its aerobic effects, this is first time a link between heart health and the technique has been established.

“This is the first study to investigate the possible effects of Tai Chi on arterial compliance by comparing older Tai Chi practitioners with non-practitioners similar in age and activity level,” says Dr. William Tsang from the study.

“The improvement in arterial compliance could have resulted from a combination of aerobic training, stretching, mental concentration and calm meditation during Tai Chi movement.”

Loading Slideshow...
  • 10 Inspiring Ways To Think Yourself Fit

    How to 'think yourself fit' this spring by fitness trainer and coach <a href="http://www.timweeks.co.uk/" target="_hplink"><strong>Tim Weeks</strong></a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/tim_weeks" target="_hplink"><strong>Follow Tim on Twitter</strong></a>

  • Enjoy It

    If there is no passion in what you do, even the greatest motivation power wont get you over the first hurdle. Loving what you do makes the whole 'fitness experience' a lot of fun. Think of it like your job: hate your job and the week drags by. Love your job and nothing is ever a problem and motivation is constantly high.

  • Give Yourself Plenty Of Options

    Due to your natural peaks and troughs of ones mood (especially for women due to menstrual cycle), you need to have 4 or 5 different activities to choose from depending on your mood.   If you really can't be bothered, having an easy option like a walk will mean you don't need superhero powers to motivate yourself to get off the sofa.  Try as many different activities as you can until you find a few that 'click'.

  • Set Yourself A Challenge

    However cliché this sounds, it works. This doesn't necessarily mean signing up to the London marathon or climbing Everest. It might be trying to complete a lap of the park jogging without walking.

  • Invest In A Decent Trainer

    Anyone can write a programme. The real talented trainers out there have something very special about them.   Look at Jose Mourhino. Love him or hate him. He has an amazing ability to motivate people and unlock peoples potential to allow them to reach new heights.  Having that 'motivator' at your side should be able to unlock that 'belief' within you that everyone has. Look for someone who is interested in your long term development. They can actually help you put all of these 10 items in this list into place.  Not just getting ready for the beach in 4 weeks time.

  • Build A Fortress Around You

    'Stuff' happens in life that you have to deal with as you go along (good or bad). Build a support network of good people around you for when bad times arrive. It therefore means you don't always have to rely on will power. Having good people around you can actually kick start your motivation for you without you even realising.

  • Share Your Achievements

    If you get feedback from another person, their enthusiasm can help you feel valued. If you feel good about yourself, you naturally enter a self generating positive motivation cycle.

  • Have An Incentive

    This may sound ridiculous but it can work.  Put a chart on your fridge for 10 sessions.  When you have completed all 10, treat yourself. Buy an item like a handbag, a pair of shoes or a book. The physical item is a nice reminder to yourself of how amazing you are and what you have achieved.

  • Have A Fitness Buddy

    Sometimes having a friend giving you a kick up the bum is really helpful. You can actually motivate each other. Especially useful if one can't be bothered.

  • Don't Go Over The Top

    If you go over the top and set yourself totally unrealistic goals (eg I am going to exercise everyday) the low you feel is VERY low. You then need superhuman motivational powers to get back on track.  Don't put yourself in the position in the first place.

  • Take Time Off

    If you exercise regularly, at some point you will hit a motivational lull. Therefore, when you go on holiday, enjoy yourself. Forget exercise.  It will recharge your brain so you get back that hunger.