Tai chi is often described as "meditation in motion," but it might as well be called "medication in motion." This mind-body practice can help treat or prevent many age-related health problems, reports the May 2009 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch. And it may be the perfect activity for the rest of your life.

You can get started with tai chi even if you aren't in top shape. This gentle form of exercise is slow and doesn't leave you breathless, yet it addresses the key components of fitness-muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning. Harvard Women's Health Watch reports the findings of various studies showing that tai chi combined with standard medical treatment can be helpful for several medical conditions:

Arthritis. An hour of tai chi twice a week for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved mood and physical functioning more than standard stretching exercises in people with severe knee osteoarthritis.

Low bone density. Tai chi appears to be a safe and effective way to maintain bone density in postmenopausal women.

Breast cancer. In women suffering from breast cancer or the side effects of treatment, tai chi may help improve quality of life and functional capacity.

Heart disease. In one study, tai chi significantly boosted exercise capacity, lowered blood pressure, and improved levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, and C-reactive protein in people at high risk for heart disease.

Parkinson's disease. A group of study participants with mild to moderately severe Parkinson's disease showed improved balance, walking ability, and overall well-being after 20 tai chi sessions.

Read the full-length article: "The health benefits of tai chi"

Also in this issue:

- Low-dose aspirin for stroke prevention
- Ingrown toenail remedies
- Resting heart rate and heart risk
- B vitamins and age-related eye disease
- Exercise for uneasy legs

Harvard Women's Health Watch