Simple exercise improves sleep in seniors

By • Published: October 27th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Want three secrets for a better night’s sleep? Try “pulling taffy,” “passing clouds” and “daughter on the mountaintop.”

These are three of the moves involved in tai chi chih [tie chee chuh], a form of tai chi that researchers say seems to help older adults catch more Z’s.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost two-thirds of seniors struggle with getting enough sleep. But U-C-L-A researchers found that older adults who did tai chi chih not only got more sleep than peers in a control group, they also reported having better quality sleep.

The question is how?

Experts say exercise improves sleep. But hitting the free weights isn’t typically an option for most older adults. That’s where tai chi chih comes in. Described as a form of moving meditation, tai chi chih includes moves that researchers say anyone can do.

Sleep isn’t the only health benefit of tai chi chih, either. Other UCLA studies have shown that tai chi chih eases headaches and helps the immune system fend off the virus that causes shingles. According to the researchers, vaccines don’t always work well in seniors. Adding another weapon to the fight could better protect seniors from diseases like shingles or even influenza.

Of course getting enough sleep may be the biggest health bonus of all. Poor sleep patterns can lead to more accidents and over time can increase a person’s risk for high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

Pulling taffy sounds a lot better than that.