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Not Sleeping Well? Try Tai Chi!

A new study from researchers at UCLA shows that tai chi has the power to improve sleep quality and duration in older adults. This is exciting news considering that over half of older adults complain of difficulty sleeping.

Tai chi is often referred to as "meditation in motion" and puts emphasis on the fusion between mind and body. It is a non-competitive ancient Chinese martial art that uses a series of poses, stretches and gentle, flowing motions to achieve balance within the practitioner.

In the recent study, researchers recruited 112 older adults aged from 59 to 86. The participants were randomly divided into two groups for the 25 week testing period. The first group practiced in a series of 20 simple tai chi moves while the second group participated in health education classes that focused on stress management, diet and sleep habits.

Participants were asked to rate their sleep before, during and after the study using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), a questionnaire that assesses sleep quality, duration and disturbance over the course of a month.

Results are published online ahead of the September 2008 print edition of the journal Sleep and found that the group practicing tai chi saw an improvement in sleep quality and duration. Researchers also noted that participants in this group also reported a reduction in problems associated with poor sleep - like drowsiness and lack of concentration during the day.

Most health professionals will agree that physical activity can improve sleep quality. But sports and high impact exercises aren't an option for everyone, especially older adults. Because tai chi is a "soft" martial art, it isn't strenuous and can be practiced by almost anyone. That's why it is considered perfect for seniors who have difficulty with more rigorous exercise but want to continue being active.
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