London: Older people who regularly practice the traditional Chinese Tai Chi exercise technique are less likely to suffer high blood pressure and were physically stronger, a new study finds.
Tai Chi consists of slow, gentle, flowing movements that aim to boost muscle power, balance and posture. It also includes mindfulness, relaxation and breath control.
It can also help asthma patients control their condition, the study found.
Researchers said the improvement in heart function combined with increased muscular power meant that the martial art should be considered the preferred technique for elderly people to maintain good health, The Telegraph reported.
The study involved 65 elderly subjects from Hong Kong, 29 recruited from local Tai Chi clubs who had each practiced the technique for at least 90 minutes a week for three years, and 36 controls with no such experience.
Initial results showed that the Tai Chi subjects were superior in almost all medical observations, including blood pressure, vascular resistance and pulse pressure.
Measurements also showed that both large and small artery compliance was 40-44 per cent higher in the Tai Chi group.
Additional analysis showed that the Tai Chi subjects had greater average muscle strength.
"The improvement in arterial compliance could have resulted from a combination of aerobic training, stretching, mental concentration and calm meditation during Tai Chi movement," lead researcher William Tsang from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, was quoted as saying.
Tsang said the added appeal of Tai Chi was that it could be practiced any time and anywhere without the constraints of equipment or a gymnasium.
The findings were published online in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.