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Health benefits of Tai Chi exercise: Improved balance and blood pressure in middle-aged womenThornton, Everard W.; Sykes, Kevin; Tang, Wai K.; University of Liverpool ; University College Chester ; University College Chester (Oxford University Press, 2004-03-01)Tai Chi has been widely practiced as a Chinese martial art that focuses on slow sequential movements, providing a smooth, continuous and low intensity activity. It has been promoted to improve balance and strength and to reduce falls in the elderly, especially those 'at risk'. The potential benefits in healthy younger age cohorts and for wider aspects of health have received less attention. The present study documented prospective changes in balance and vascular responses for a community sample of middle-aged women. Seventeen relatively sedentary but healthy normotensive women aged 33-55 years were recruited into a three times per week, 12-week Tai Chi exercise programme. A further 17 sedentary subjects matched for age and body size were recruited as a control group. Dynamic balance measured by the Functional Reach Test was significantly improved following Tai Chi, with significant decreases in both mean systolic (9.71 mmHg) and diastolic (7.53 mmHg) blood pressure. The data confirm that Tai Chi exercise can be a good choice of exercise for middle-aged adults, with potential benefits for ageing as well as the aged.