Effectiveness of a Tai Chi Intervention for Improving Functional Fitness and General Health Among Ethnically Diverse Older Adults With Self-Reported Arthritis Living in Low-Income Neighborhoods: A Cohort Study

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Abstract

Background and Purpose:

Tai Chi (TC) is a form of low to moderate physical activity that has been shown to significantly impact health and functional fitness among older adults; the impact of TC on the health and functional fitness of older adults with arthritis is not well understood. The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of a 16-week TC intervention for improving functional fitness and self-reported general health among older adults with arthritis who were born outside Canada and were residing in low-income neighborhoods.

Methods:

A 16-week intervention was conducted among older adults residing in 1 of 2 specified low-income neighborhoods in Canada. The analysis was limited to those who self-reported having arthritis (n = 102). Participants were encouraged to attend 2 moderate-intensity TC sessions per week for a total of 120 minutes. Functional fitness and health were assessed at baseline and at 16 weeks.

Results:

Average attendance was 1.1 sessions per week. Functional fitness assessment results indicated that right-hand grip strength (25.6 ± 8.2 to 26.7 ± 7.8 kg), left-hand grip strength (24.9 ± 7.3 to 26.8 ± 7.1 kg), 30-second arm curl (15.6 ± 5.0 to 18.6 ± 5.7 repetitions/30 s), Timed Up-and-Go (7.4 ± 2.6 to 6.9 ± 2.6 s), and 30-second chair stand (12.0 ± 3.9 to 15.4 ± 5.8 s) improved significantly (P < 0.05) from baseline to 16 weeks. Results from the Short Form-36 indicate that physical functioning (73.1 ± 19.9 to 80.3 ± 19.4; P = 0.001), general health (61.5 ± 20.9 to 66.0 ± 20.4; P = 0.03), vitality (61.5 ± 18.9 to 67.5 ± 20.2; P = 0.008), and mental health (74.3 ± 16.5 to 78.5 ± 17.7; P = 0.04) also improved significantly over the intervention period. Improvements in physical health and physical function scores were clinically meaningful.

Discussion and Conclusions:

Participating in TC for 16 weeks led to significant improvements in functional fitness and components of physical and mental health among older adults with self-reported arthritis. Tai Chi seems to be a valuable mode of physical activity for this population.

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