This study investigated whether long-term, habitual practice of Tai Chi (or Taiji) results in behavioral modifications during gait. Specifically, we examined whether Tai Chi (TC) experience alters gait behavior during normal and obstructed walking. Fifteen experienced TC practitioners and fifteen control subjects (average age 45 years, 23-66 year range) completed level walking trials with or without a stationary obstacle placed in their path. TC practitioners in this study had an average of 6.5 years (1.5-15 year range) of Chen-style Tai Chi experience. Kinematic analyses performed on their step-to-step gait characteristics over multiple steps revealed that TC practitioners used a more cautious strategy by using slower gait speeds and shorter and slower steps than controls (p ≤ 0.003). TC practitioners also spent significantly longer time in single leg support while crossing the obstacle (p < 0.001). The deleterious effect of this typically risky behavior may be mitigated in TC practitioners because of their comfort with single leg stance due to continual practice in this posture. It has been suggested that TC may reduce the risk of falls in older adults. Future studies will need to determine whether these observed gait behaviors are found in older adults and are related to reductions in fall risk.
- Tai Chi
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine