Culture-specific exercise sparks interest of older women

ORLANDO, Feb. 18 Getting older Americans to exercise isn't always easy, but exercise programs in tune with a culture create interest and increase adherence, researchers in a pilot study reported at the Second International Conference on Women, Heart Disease and Stroke.

University of California San Francisco School of Nursing researchers provided a 12-week Tai Chi exercise program to older Chinese women who had one major risk factor for coronary heart disease.

Most exercise programs for women with coronary heart disease have high dropout rates, but 96 percent of participants completed the Tai Chi program, and there was a waiting list to join.

"Tai Chi has been widely practiced in China for centuries, and is a popular form of exercise there," said Ruth E. Taylor-Piliae, a doctoral candidate in the School of Nursing at UCSF. "The exercise program was provided at a community center where a large number of Cantonese-speaking senior citizens gather daily. They readily embraced this form of exercise and were excited. Activities within various cultures that are the equivalent of brisk walking, most likely will spark interest and be readily acceptable."

The researchers, as a part of a pilot study to determine feasibility and acceptability, set up a Yang Style Tai Chi program for Chinese women at a community center where senior citizens already gather daily for lunch, activities or health talks. The 27 Chinese women in the study, average age 64, participated in one-hour Tai Chi sessions three times a week for three months.

All the women had at least one coronary heart disease risk factor, 56 percent had arthritis. The most surprising factor was that 90 percent of the women either were diagnosed with high blood pressure or were on medications for high blood pressure, researchers said. Also, 44 percent of the women had high cholesterol levels and 26 percent had been diagnosed with diabetes.

"The amount of high blood pressure was surpri

Contact: Karen Astle
American Heart Association

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