The Effect of Tai Chi on Posturo-Respiratory Synchronization in Frail Older Adults

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The deterioration of postural control that often accompanies aging is associated with decreased balance and increased fall risk [1]. When standing, posture is maintained by a complex system—comprising sensory elements, the spinal cord, brain, muscles and skeleton—that functions to maintain the body’s center-of-mass within its base-of-support.

The postural control system dynamically interacts with the respiratory system [2], as spontaneous respiration alters the body’s center-of-mass. In order to study this multi-system interaction, we introduced a new metric termed posturerespiratory synchronization. This metric quantifies the effect of respiration on the body’s postural sway (as measured by center-of-pressure, COP, movement under the feet). Here, greater synchronization reflects greater impact of respiration on postural sway. Using this metric, we previously demonstrated cross-sectionally that normal biological aging from adulthood into senescence, as well as chronic brain tissue damage caused by cerebral infarction, is associated with increased posturo-respiratory synchronization; in other words, a reduced ability to minimize the impact of respiration on postural sway [2].

Tai Chi is one potential intervention that improves balance in numerous older adult populations [3]. As a mind-body therapeutic exercise, this ancient form of Chinese martial arts combines mindfulness with slow, purposeful movements that are integrated with respiration [4]. As such, Tai Chi training may be particularly well suited to improve the dynamic interaction between postural control and respiratory systems. We therefore hypothesized that Tai Chi training improves the ability to minimize the impact of respiration on postural sway in older adults; i.e., decrease the strength of posturo-respiratory synchronization.


International Society of Biomechanics Annual Convention (ISB)


Natal, Brazil