Delineating the impact of Tai Chi training on physical function among the elderly

Fuzhong Li, K. John Fisher, Peter Harmer, Edward McAuley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Through a re-analysis of a Tai Chi intervention data set, the study objective was to determine which, if any, subgroups of the study sample evidenced differential benefits from the intervention. Method: Re-analysis of a Tai Chi intervention study, a randomized controlled trial in Eugene and Springfield, Oregon. Physically inactive participants aged ≥65 years were randomly assigned to one of two groups: Tai Chi (n=49) and a wait-list control (n=45). The main outcome measure was self-reported physical function. Results: Initial latent curve analyses indicated significant Tai Chi training effects: Participants in the Tai Chi group reported significant improvements in perceived physical function compared to those in the control group. However, there was significant interindividual variability in response to Tai Chi. The overall intervention effect was further delineated by identifying two subgroups. This delineation showed that Tai Chi participants with lower levels of physical function at baseline benefited more from the Tai Chi training program than those with higher physical function scores. Inclusion of additional measures of individual characteristics at baseline, change in movement confidence, and class attendance further explained differences in treatment responses. Conclusions: Findings from this study suggest that although an intervention may show an overall effect (or no overall effect), it may be differentially effective for subgroups of participants that differ in their pre-intervention characteristics. Examination of variability in outcome measures can provide important information for refining and tailoring appropriate interventions targeted to specific subgroups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)92-97
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number2 SUPPL. 1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Exercise
  • Intervention studies
  • Physical fitness
  • Tai ji

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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