Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Knee News

Getting a Knee Up with Tai Chi

Notice any changes in your balance as you get older? Are you less stable when reaching for objects? Afraid of falling? An exercise form called Tai Chi may be the answer. Tai Chi is an Asian mind-body exercise. Millions of Chinese have used this form of exercise for hundreds of years.

This study measured the effect of Tai Chi on knee joint sense of position and overall body balance. Two groups of older adults (60 years old and older) were tested. One group had practiced Tai Chi for at least three years. The control group had never done Tai Chi, but some were active in walking and stretching.

Tai Chi stresses exact joint positions, speed of movement, and directions. Each movement is repeated slowly and smoothly. When doing Tai Chi movements, the body is required to shift weight in all directions. Smooth, coordinated motion is the goal.

The researchers found adults practicing Tai Chi have much better sense of knee joint position. This is called proprioception. They have faster reaction times when leaning toward eight different target positions. When it comes to balance and falls, Tai Chi participants in this study were more stable than the control group.

The authors conclude Tai Chi practice can improve balance when shifting weight in different directions. By improving balance, the adult becomes more stable. Increased stability makes it easier to climb stairs, get on and off a bus, and perform other daily activities. Better stability also makes it less likely that you will lose your balance and fall.


William W. N. Tsang and Christina W. Y. Hui-Chan. Effects of Tai Chi on Joint Proprioception and Stability Limits in Elderly Subjects. In Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. December 2003. Vol. 35. No. 12. Pp. 1962-1971.

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