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Tai chi, effects of cold weather

Created date

January 6th, 2017

Please note: The following questions were submitted by readers. The answers are intended for your general information and should not replace a doctor’s medical advice.

Q. Does tai chi have any other health benefits besides improving balance? 

A. Tai chi is considered a mind-body practice that involves gentle movements, breathing techniques, mental focus, and relaxation—thus it is an ideal martial art for seniors. It can also be a form of self-defense if the movements are performed quickly. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, clinical trials show that along with improving balance and stability, practicing tai chi regularly may also reduce back pain and osteoarthritis-related knee pain and improve quality of life in people with chronic illnesses. A review of tai chi studies conducted by Harvard researchers in 2008 showed that the practice can lower blood pressure. Although tai chi is considered quite safe—some people may experience minor aches and pains until their muscles acclimate—it’s still a good idea to discuss it with your doctor before you start classes. 


Q. I love brisk weather, but is it harmful to go outside in cold weather if I have COPD?

A. People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) should avoid breathing air at either temperature extreme—generally over 90°F or below 32°F. Studies show that either temperature extreme can trigger or worsen symptoms such as coughing, mucous production, or shortness of breath. Symptom triggers, however, vary significantly for COPD sufferers, so you may be able to spend some limited amount of time outside without any ill effects. Some research shows that fatigue in particular is a common complaint among COPD patients who have spent time outside in cold weather. To protect yourself during the winter months, you should wash your hands, avoid crowds, and get flu and pneumonia vaccines if your doctor says it’s okay.

Health and wellness experts practice exclusively at Erickson Living communities all over the U.S. This month our expert is:

Roberta Feldhausen, R.N., P.M.H.-C.N.S., B.C., Director of Mental Health Services, Riderwood, Silver Spring, Md.

Ms. Feldhausen received a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology from Hood College in Frederick, Md., and another in nursing from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. She graduated with a master’s degree in adult and geriatric psychiatric nursing from the University of Maryland School of Nursing in Baltimore. Certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center in adult psychiatric mental health nursing, she joined Riderwood in October 2004.