Gabe Mirkin, M.D.
A study from the University of Vermont shows that Tai Chi can help older people improve balance, which can protect them from falling and breaking their bones. It is also a safe way to build muscle strength.
Older people lose coordination and are at increased risk for falling. T'ai Chi is a specific training program aimed at teaching people how to maintain balance so that they can withstand the attack of an enemy and remain on their feet. It involves slow, purposeful movements that apply the same forces on muscles that require far heavier forces with faster movements. So T'ai chi strengthens muscles with far less force on muscles and far less susceptibility to injury. Using this method an older person can get the same strengthening of muscles and balance control with slow movements that a much younger person can get using far faster movements with much greater force on muscles. The risk of injury in T'ai chi is very low, which is an advantage at any age but exceptionally important for older people who are starting a new exercise program.