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Tai Chi in the Mists

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What you will find here is a constantly growing resource on the benefits of Tai Chi practice.

At first we will be focusing on the benefits reported in medical studies and by experienced Western medical practitioners.  Later we will be begin to focus more on the benefits reported by experienced practitioners and known teachers of the Art.

Some of the benefits of Tai Chi that have been reported in medical studies and that we have written about on this site are:

(just click on the link below and the article will appear)

Topics that we will be addressing in the next few weeks include:

If you are a medical professional or a writer with an interest in Tai Chi fitness and wellness please let me know. We are always looking for articles and interviews to expand the value of our site to our visitors.

If you have questions or suggestions, I can be reached at Wayne@TaiChiFitness.info

Thanks for being here! Come back and learn more and more about Tai Chi and its benefits.

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Tai Chi for the Management of ADD and ADHD

Tai Chi is a form of exercise that combines physical activity with breathing exercises and meditation. It has been linked with a wide range of different benefits, including relaxation as well as the ability to improve focus and concentration. Clearly, these benefits have the potential to assist in the management of ADD and ADHD.

A study of thirteen teenagers who had been diagnosed with ADHD showed that practicing Tai Chi twice a week for five weeks produced significant improvements in behavior, as assessed by teachers using the Conners Scale. At the end of the study, the adolescents had experienced improvements in their anxiety levels and they were also less likely to show inappropriate emotions or to spend as much time daydreaming. They were also showed a measurable reduction in hyperactivity. These improvements were maintained when the teenagers were assessed two weeks after the end of the Tai Chi sessions indicating the potential for long term changes.

Another study which was conducted during a six week summer camp program for teenagers diagnosed with mental conditions such as ADHD also found a significant improvement in the behavior of the participants. This study involved adolescents who had been diagnosed with a number of different mental conditions, approximately half of whom had a diagnosis of ADHD. The camp participants were split into two groups, one of which participated in the tai chi sessions and the other which did not and therefore acted as a control group. The tai chi group practiced tai chi for 45 minutes twice a week over a six week period. At the end of the six weeks, the teenagers who had been assigned to the tai chi group showed some significant improvements compared to their assessments at the beginning of the study. No such improvements were seen in the control group.

Those teenagers who had been practicing tai chi showed a significant improvement in terms of hyperactivity and their ADHD index subscores at the end of the study. However, when the participants were assessed at 12 weeks, six weeks after the end of the tai chi sessions, these improvements had been lost. This implies that the hold over benefits from the above study are limited, and that it is important for people to continue practicing tai chi in order to continue enjoying the benefits.  This aligns with the recommendations of experienced practitioners who believe that a daily or at least every other day practice is necessary for optimal benefit.

The researchers found that practicing tai chi helped to reduce hyperactivity in the whole group, and that those teenagers who had been diagnosed with ADHD also showed improved cognitive skills. The study demonstrated that tai chi was able to increase self-control and improve mood. It was an effective treatment for managing ADHD.

Finding a way of managing the symptoms of ADD and ADHD for complementary use alongside the more conventional treatments is very important for everyone afflicted with this problem.  ADD and ADHD can leave people feeling as if they are not in control of their own lives. It can create stress and anxiety, and it can make people feel as if they are less capable than those around them.

Tai chi can provide a means for people to take control of their own lives and to feel empowered. It can help to improve concentration and relieve the stress that is often associated with ADD and ADHD, particularly in adults who are affected by these conditions. It can also help to boost confidence and helps people to find ways of controlling their own attention so that they an achieve more.

References:
Hernandez-Reif, M. Field, TM. Thimas, E. (2001) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Benefits from Tai Chi. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 5(2):120-3 Available online at http://www.bodyworkmovementtherapies.com/article/S1360-8592(00)90219-5/abstract Accessed 17/2/2011
Tai Chi May Improve Some ADHD Symptoms Available online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/722490 Accessed 17/2/2011
Self-Help for Adult ADD/ADHD http://helpguide.org/mental/adhd_add_adult_strategies.htm Accessed 17/2/2011

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Tai Chi and Cancer

Tai Chi in the Hospital

Many benefits have been attributed to the practice of Tai Chi, but it is perhaps the potential for this form of exercise to aid in the prevention and treatment of cancer that has caused the most excited interest.

There is evidence to suggest that practicing Tai Chi has benefits for patients who are undergoing the treatment cancer or who are recovering from such treatment.  This is an area with tremendous promise and much more research need to be done.

Research already conducted into the effects of Tai Chi used alongside cancer treatment or during recovery has shown that it can help to improve the patient’s quality of life and to aid in recovery.

The radiation treatments and chemotherapy that are used to treat cancer can result in serious side-effects including fatigue, pain and neuropathy, which affects sensation in the extremities and can therefore disrupt balance. These effects can persist long after the treatment itself has ended, having a significant effect on the quality of life of patients who are undergoing these types of therapy. Patients who are undergoing treatment for cancer can also experience stress, worry and difficulty sleeping, and they can also lose strength and physical condition. Tai Chi can help counteract some of these side-effects, both during treatment and recovery.

Practicing Tai Chi has been shown to have some important benefits for patients during cancer treatment and recovery. The benefits of Tai Chi for stress management and improving the quality of sleep are well established and they are likely to be particularly important for people who are experiencing the stress associated with disease and cancer treatments. Tai Chi has also been shown to provide pain relief for a number of chronic conditions, which could be an important benefit for cancer patients.

Tai Chi can help with relaxation and stress management. It can improve the quality of sleep and help to relieve pain. Tai Chi can also improve balance and help patients to maintain their strength and physical ability. (MSKCC)

Studies of the effects of Tai Chi on cancer patients have focused on the ways in which it can improve quality of life during and after treatment. Research has shown that Tai Chi has been able to improve the self-esteem and quality of life of breast cancer survivors. Practicing Tai Chi for an hour three times a week over 12 weeks was able to improve self-esteem and health related quality of life in a group of people who had completed breast cancer treatment in comparison to a control group that did not take part in the Tai Chi sessions. The control group actually showed a decline in these measures. (Mustian 2004) Studies have also shown that practicing Tai Chi can help people to recover their functional capacity following breast cancer treatment. This refers to measures such as flexibility and strength, which can diminish a great deal during cancer treatment. Practicing Tai Chi for 12 weeks enabled breast cancer survivors to increase their functional capacity significantly more than a control group that did not participate in Tai Chi. (Mustian 2006)

Tai Chi can help improve the general health of cancer patients. It can help to reduce many of the side-effects of cancer treatment, including depression, insomnia and physical weakness. It can also improve quality of life. Studies have shown that support programs can have a significant impact on the quality of life of cancer patients and that classes in exercises such as qigong enjoyed the best participation rates in these programs. (Emory Cancerquest)

Although it has also been suggested that practicing Tai Chi may also help reduce cancer risks or to promote survival, there is as yet no definitive scientific evidence to support such claims. However, evidence is building that suggests that regular exercise can help prevent cancer, so Tai Chi may be able to contribute to the reduction of cancer risks. Even though the evidence on the effects of Tai Chi on cancer is limited, there is already plenty of scientific evidence to suggest that Tai Chi can play a role as a means of stress relief and exercise during and after cancer treatment.

Tai Chi offers an excellent form of exercise for people who are affected by cancer or other serious diseases since there are some gentle forms that can be used even by those whose mobility may be limited. Individuals can choose the forms of Tai Chi that are suitable for their own physical abilities. The techniques of Tai Chi can even be adapted for use by people who need to perform them while seated or in bed. (MSKCC)

There are a number of ongoing research projects and clinical trials currently pursuing further research into the benefits of Tai Chi for cancer patients and survivors.

References:

Emory Cancerquest CAM: Yoga, Tai Chi http://www.cancerquest.org/complementary-alternative-medicine-yoga-tai-chi Accessed 23/01/2011

MSKCC: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/69395.cfm Accessed on 23/01/2011

Mustian, KM. Katula, JA. Gill, DL. Roscoe, JA. Lang, D. Murphy, K. (2004) Tai Chi Chuan, health-related quality of life and self-esteem: a randomized trial with breast cancer survivors. Support Care Cancer. Dec 12(12):871-6 Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15599776 Accessed 23/01/2011

Mustian, KM. Katula, JA. Zhao, H. (2006) A Pilot Study to Assess the Influence of Tai Chi Chuan on Functional Capacity Among Breast Cancer Survivors. Supportive Oncology 4(3):139-145. Available online at http://www.supportiveoncology.net/journal/articles/0403139.pdf Accessed 23/01/2011

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The Surprising Benefits of Tai Chi

Tai Chi Silly

Tai Chi can produce a wide range of benefits for its practitioners, from improving their balance and overall fitness to offering a form of relaxation and stress management. Tai Chi has also been shown to have beneficial effects on people who are affected by conditions such as high blood pressure. These physiological and health benefits, many of which are supported by extensive scientific evidence, are impressive, but they are not the only advantages of practicing this form of exercise. Perhaps the most interesting effects of Tai Chi are those that extend beyond mere physical health and which affect areas of life that one would have thought were completely separate from simple exercise.

Tai Chi differs from other forms of exercise in many respects. It combines physical activity with mindfulness to offer benefits for both the mind and body. Tai Chi involves circular movements that are never forced. The muscles remain relaxed and the joints are neither never fully extended nor fully bent and the connective tissues are gently enhanced by the movement. Anybody can practice Tai Chi, whether in its gentler or its more vigorous forms, and there are a range of different styles and exercises to perform.

Tai Chi can also change the way people look at the world emotionally.  The psychological benefits of Tai Chi can include mood enhancement, improved concentration and increased self-esteem. The people who practice Tai Chi bring these benefits into their social and professional lives. Tai Chi can be far more than just an exercise program. It can aid in the alignment of one’s life.

Tai Chi offers a form of exercise that can train both the mind and the body. These dual benefits can make the effects of taking up Tai Chi very surprising for the beginner. Those who have been attracted to Tai Chi by the physical benefits and the idea that it will be just like any other exercise class can be surprised by the effects that it can have on their mind. Meanwhile, those beginners who have come to Tai Chi in search of a form of relaxation or meditation can be surprised by the physical benefits that they experienced as their balance, coordination and physical fitness improves.

Practitioners of Tai Chi have reported a wide range of benefits which they relate to their performance of this form of exercise. Practicing Tai Chi can generate feelings of well-being and improved quality of life. It can help people to enjoy a better quality of sleep and it can help reduce stress and generate feelings of calm. Practicing Tai Chi can help to increase awareness, improve energy levels and build stamina. (Web MD)

Tai Chi helps people become more focused and alert. This can benefit all parts of their lives, including their careers, their academic achievement and their relationships.  Regular practitioner report being much happier and calmer.  Tai Chi can be fitted into any lifestyle or schedule. Some practitioners have even incorporated subtle forms of Tai Chi into their professional life in order to keep calm and in control during work meetings. (Harvard Magazine)

A systematic review of the research into the benefits of Tai Chi found that there was evidence of a wide range of different benefits, many of which were psychological. It can relieve anxiety and depression, enhance mood. It can build confidence and increase self-esteem. (Wang 2010)The practice of Tai Chi can also offer social benefits. Joining a Tai Chi class can be a great way of meeting people and socializing, but practicing Tai Chi as a couple or a family can also help to make existing relationships stronger.

The benefits that are experienced by people who take up the regular practice of Tai Chi can have far reaching consequences. People who have taken up this form of exercise have found that the effects reach out into their everyday life, quite unlike other types of exercise that start and end with the gym.

It is little wonder that Tai Chi has been considered for use as an exercise or relaxation program for use in diverse settings, including workplaces and schools.

The wide range of benefits that are experienced, the adaptability of Tai Chi for different environments and needs, and the very real impact that this type of exercise can have on all aspects of its practitioners lives make Tai Chi an interesting choice for anyone who is looking for a way in which to improve either their mind or their body. Tai Chi cannot only be a way of achieving calm or a form of physical activity to improve fitness. It can also help people to achieve success in their everyday lives, at work or in their personal relationships.

References

Harvard Health Publications: The health benefits of tai chi Available online at http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2009/May/The-health-benefits-of-tai-chi Accessed 23/01/2011

Harvard Magazine: Easing Ills through Tai Chi Available online at http://harvardmagazine.com/2010/01/researchers-study-tai-chi-benefits Accessed 23/01/2011

Wang, C. Bannuru, R. Ramel, J. Kupelnick, B. Scott, T. Schmid, CH. (2010) Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 10:23 Available online at http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/d 23/01/2011

Web MD: Health Benfits of Tai Chi and Qigong Available online at http://www.webmd.com/balance/health-benefits-tai-chi-qigong Accessed 23/01/2011

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Losing Weight with Tai Chi

Tai Chi Festival

Tai Chi Festival

Tai Chi is proven to be beneficial in many ways.  But weight loss?  Interestingly Tai Chi works for weight loss.  It offers an enjoyable and accessible way for people of all sizes and levels of fitness to begin a weight loss journey.  It takes time and commitment but it works.

Research has been conducted into the potential for programs of Tai Chi to be used to help tackle obesity, including in people who have been affected by related conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. These studies have suggested that Tai Chi can be an effective form of exercise for people at all levels of fitness. It can enable people who have led sedentary lifestyles to start exercising again. It can also offer a new and interesting challenge for those who are used to exercising regularly. Tai Chi can be very easy in the beginning, but it is quite possible to work up to an athletically challenging level.

The effects of practicing Tai Chi on the body have been assessed scientifically. A review of 31 scientific studies of research involving Tai Chi found that this form of exercise can be classified as moderate and that it offers some important benefits for cardiorespiratory function and muscle strength. (Li 2001) This means that can be used as a form of moderate aerobic exercise to lose weight.

Another review of the research compared the effects of the use of Tai Chi as a form of aerobic exercise in different studies. This review found that the most significant benefits in terms of aerobic capacity were experienced by those people who spent a year practicing Yang style Tai Chi after leading a sedentary lifestyle that involved little physical activity. (Taylor-Piliae 2004) This suggests that Tai Chi can be a particularly effective form of exercise for weight loss for those people who need it most.

A program of Tai Chi has been shown to produce significant decreases in the BMIs and waist measurements of overweight participants. The program involved sessions of between 1 and 1.5 hours of Tai Chi or Qigong, three times a week for twelve weeks. In this study, participation in the Tai Chi program was able to generate reductions in BMI of 4 percent and reductions in waist circumference of 3 percent. This study focused on people who had been diagnosed with diabetes and in whom weight loss was, therefore, particularly important. As well as helping with weight loss, the program of Tai Chi that the participants underwent was able to assist with the reduction of certain symptoms of diabetes and to help prevent depression among the participants, who also enjoyed improved energy levels and self-esteem. (Liu 2010)

The immediate effects of the practice of Tai Chi on the body have also been assessed scientifically. One study examined the effects of a session of Tai Chi on people who had been practicing the Yang style for at least three months. The study participants took part in a one hour session of Tai Chi followed by half an hour of rest, with measurements taken both before and after the session. As a control, the same measurements were taken one week later before and after a period of rest of the same length. A significant difference was found in the levels of adiponectin in the blood before and after the Tai Chi session and the change was significantly different from the control measurements. Adiponectin is a hormone that plays a role in the control of the metabolic rate. Its levels are related to obesity and body fat. There were also significant changes in the levels of cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and glycerol in the blood before and after the Tai Chi session when compared with the control. (Chang 2011) This study demonstrated the positive effects that practicing Tai Chi can have on the body, which may help to contribute towards weight loss.

Tai Chi can be a particularly good choice for anyone who wants to lose weight, especially if they are not keen on other forms of exercise. Tai Chi can be both varied and interesting. It can be practiced alone or in a more social setting such as a class, so it is possible to choose the environment that is most comfortable for the individual.

Many people who want to lose weight find it difficult to make the time to exercise or feel bored with the conventional options such as jogging or going to the gym. Tai Chi is easy to fit into any schedule since it is possible to practice a few movements anywhere at any time, even if you are unable to make it to a regular class.

References:

Chang, RY. Koo, M. Ho, MY. Lin, ZZ. Yu, ZR. Lin, YF. Wang, BJ. (2011) Effects of Tai Chi on adiponectin and glucose homeostasis in individuals with cardiovascular risk factors. Eur J Appl Physiol Jan 111(1):57-66 Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20809228 Accessed 23/01/2011

Li, JX. Hong, Y. Chan, KM. (2001) Tai chi: physiological characteristics and beneficial effects on health. Br J Sports M?ed 35:148-156 Available online at http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/35/3/148.abstract Accessed 23/01/2011

Liu, X. Miller, YD. Burton, NW. Brown, WJ. A preliminary study of the effects of Tai Chi and Qigong medical exercise on indicators of metabolic syndrome, glycaemic control, health-related quality of life, and psychological health in adults with elevated blood glucose. Br J Sports Med 44:704-9 Available online at http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/44/10/704.abstract Accessed 23/01/2011

Taylor-Piliae, RE. Froelicher, ES. (2004) Effectiveness of Tai Chi exercise in improving aerobic capacity: a meta-analysis. Jan-Feb 19(1):48-57 Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14994782 Accessed 23/01/2011

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Tai Chi for Stress Reduction

Tai Chi at Sunrise

Stress is not always a bad thing. When we think about stress, it is useful to separate its beneficial forms, which can be termed eustress, from its detrimental ones, which can be known as distress. Continue reading

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Tai Chi for Blood Pressure Management

Tai Chi and the Ocean

Among the many benefits that have been associated with the practice of Tai Chi, one of the most widely beneficial is the ability of this form of exercise to help lower blood pressure. Many people have a problem with high blood pressure, whether it has reached the levels at which it has begun to cause serious medical problems, or is still just a developing problem that has the potential to result in serious complications in the future. Keeping your blood pressure down through a healthy diet and plenty of exercise can help you avoid serious cardiovascular problems.

Scientific evidence is accumulating that suggests Tai Chi can be an excellent form of exercise for reducing blood pressure and that it can even help people who have previously suffered from cardiovascular disease. Tai Chi in its gentlest forms can be an effective form of exercise even for those who are at most risk of heart problems and high blood pressure, including people who are unfit or overweight, and it can even help people who are recovering from heart surgery.

The importance of exercise for cardiovascular health and the management of blood pressure is well-known. Keeping active can help reduce the chances of developing heart problems or high blood pressure. Tai Chi can be an effective way for people who are at risk of high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease to enjoy some physical activity, but it also offers the additional benefits of stress relief and relaxations, which can be just as important in the management of these conditions. Researchers have found that people with mild hypertension experienced significant decreases in their blood pressure following two to three months of Tai Chi or similar relaxation techniques. (Web MD)

A 2008 systematic review of scientific studies examining the effects of Tai Chi on blood pressure discovered that 22 of the 26 studies found that practicing Tai Chi produced a significant reduction in blood pressure. (Yeh 2008)

Tai Chi has also been found to be beneficial for people who have already suffered the effects of high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. Tai Chi has been found to provide an effective option as a cardiovascular risk management program for patients who have been affected by coronary artery disease, even when compliance with other forms of exercise programs is low. (Park 2010) It has also proven to be an effective form of physical activity as part of a rehabilitation program for patients affected by other heart related conditions, resulting in reductions in blood pressure and improvements in a range of other aspects of health. (Taylor-Piliae 2003)

Finding a form of exercise that can help in the management of high blood pressure and which is suitable for anyone, even the people who are at the highest risk of cardiovascular disease, could play an important role in keeping the population healthier for longer. Tai Chi may offer the ideal solution to the increasing prevalence of high blood pressure and the associated cardiovascular disease in many parts of the world.

References:

Web MD: Complementary and Alternative Treatments for High Blood Pressure. http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/hypertension-complementary-alternative-treatments. Accessed on 18/01/2011

Park, S. Song, R. Oh, KO. So, HY. Kim, DS. Kim, JI. Kim, TS. Kim, HL. Ahn, SH. (2010) Managing cardiovascular risks with Tai Chi in people with coronary artery disease. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 66(2):282-292. Available online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2009.05134.x/full Accessed 18/01/2011

Taylor-Piliae, R. (2003) Tai Chi as an Adjunct to Cardiac Rehabilitation Exercise Training March/ April 23(2):90-96. Available online at: http://journals.lww.com/jcrjournal/Abstract/2003/03000/Tai_Chi_as_an_Adjunct_to_Cardiac_Rehabilitation.4.as

px Accessed 18/01/2011

Yeh, GY. Wang, C. Wayne, PM. Phillips, RS. (2008) The effect of tai chi exercise on blood pressure: a systematic review. Prev Cardiol 11(2):82-9 Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18401235 Accessed 18/01/2011

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Tai Chi and Immune System Improvements

Tai Chi at Sunrise

Practitioners of Tai Chi often feel as if they are healthier and less prone to coughs and colds than non-practitioners, but it is difficult to assess this objectively. Skeptics might suggest that it is not that Tai Chi is making people more resistant to sickness, but that the people who are likely to practice Tai Chi regularly are simply those who are more naturally healthy and resistant to disease. However, science would have to disagree with these skeptics. Proof is mounting up that points to the fact that practicing Tai Chi can help to boost the immune system, even in those people who are most at risk of infection.

The short-term effects of the practice of Tai Chi on the immune system have been examined by scientists. A study of the immune system activity of a group of inexperienced practitioners of Tai Chi found that participating in regular Tai Chi sessions for 12 weeks was able to significantly affect their immune systems. Blood tests before and after the program of Tai Chi showed that participants has experienced a decrease in their monocyte counts and a significant increase in the ratio of T helper cells to suppresor cells. There was also an increase in the number of regulatory T cells, although there was no significant change in the total number of white blood cells. Practicing Tai Chi was able to improve the function of the immune system by making the regulatory T cells more active. (Yeh 2006)

The long term benefits of practicing Tai Chi on the immune system have been examined by scientists studying experienced Tai Chi practitioners. The study included two groups of senior citizens. One group was composed of people who had been regularly practicing Tai Chi for at least four years. The other group included people who lacked Tai Chi training. The study found that the Tai Chi practitioners has significantly higher levels of T cells, including active T lymphocytes, in their bloodstreams than the non-practitioners. The study also found that there was a significant increase in the number of active T lymphocytes following a session of Tai Chi. (Sun 1989)

Research has also been undertaken to assess how the practice of Tai Chi can affect the body’s immune response to vaccinations and viruses.

One study took two groups of older adults, a control group and a group that practiced Tai Chi for five months. At the beginning of the study, both groups received an influenza vaccine. Blood tests before and after the study showed that the people in the Tai Chi group had a significantly stronger and longer antibody response to the vaccine than those who had not been practicing Tai Chi. Practicing Tai Chi made the influenza vaccine more effective. (Yang 2007)

Another study examined the effects of Tai Chi on immunity to the virus that causes shingles, the varicella zoster virus. The study involved some older adults, in whom an infection with this virus could be very serious. Participants took part in either a health education program or a Tai Chi program over a period of 25 weeks. They were vaccinated against the virus at the 16 week point. The people in the Tai Chi group showed a significantly stronger immune response to the virus, both before and after the vaccination. The increase in the response of the people in the Tai Chi group before and after the vaccination was given was also significantly stronger. The increase in their response was twice that of the control group. (Irwin 2007)

Research has also been conducted into the ability of Tai Chi to enhance immune function in people who are undergoing medical treatment for conditions in which the immune system has become even more important than normal.

This study suggested that the immune benefits of Tai Chi might be linked to the relaxation and stress management functions of the exercise.

The study included three groups of people. One group practiced Tai Chi, while the others took part in cognitive behavioral relaxation training and spiritual growth activities. All of the participants were HIV positive and most were receiving treatment with antiretroviral drugs. Each group met for 90 minutes once a week for ten weeks. The researchers took blood samples to monitor the function of the immune system. All three of the groups showed a significant improvement in the number of lymphocyte white blood cells in their systems, indicating that Tai Chi and other relaxation methods can help to boost the immune system. These techniques also offer other important benefits, such as stress reduction, for people who are undergoing treatment for conditions such as HIV, as well as for healthy people. (McCain 2008)

More research is needed in order to understand the effects of Tai Chi on the immune system, and scientists are pursuing further investigations into this area. The benefits that Tai Chi appears to be able to produce in the function of the immune system could prove to be very important, not just for the people who want to improve their general health and avoid the common cold, but also for patients whose immune systems are coping with serious diseases. Tai Chi can help people to enjoy greater benefits from vaccinations and it can boost the immune system even in people who are dealing with stressful conditions that affect the immune system.

References:

Irwin, MR. Olmstead, R. Oxman, MN. (2007) Augmenting Immune Responses to Varicella Zoster Virus in Older Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Tai Chi. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 55(4):511-7 Available online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1532-5415.2007.01109.x/abstract Accessed 21/01/2011

McCain, NL. Gray, DP. Elswick, RK. Robins, JW. Tuck, I. Walter, JM. Rausch, SM. Ketchum, JM. (2008) A randomized clinical trial of alternative stress management interventions in persons with HIV infection. J COnsult Clin Psychol. Jun 76(3):431-41 Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18540736 Accessed 21/01/2011

Sun, XS. Xu, Y. Xia, YJ. (1989) Determination of E-rosette-forming lymphocytes in aged subjects with Taichiquan exercise. Int J Sports Med Jun 10(3):217-9 Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2789200 Accessed 21/01/2011.

Yang, Y. (2007) Effects of a Taiji and Qigong Intervention on the Antibody Response to Influenza Vaccine in Older Adults. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine 35(4):597-607 Available online at http://www.worldscinet.com/ajcm/35/3504/S0192415X07005090.html Accessed 21/01/2011

Yeh, SH. Chuang, H. Lin, LW. Hsiao, CY. Eng, HL. (2006) REgular tai chi chuan exercise enhances functional mobility and CD4CD25 regulatory T cells. Br J Sports Med Mar 40(3):239-43 Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16505081 Accessed 21/01/2011

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Tai Chi and Balance Improvement

The practice of Tai Chi is all about balance, coordination and breathing, so it is little surprise that this form of exercise has been promoted as a means of improving balance. The claims made about Tai Chi in this respect have been backed up by scientific research, however, so that Tai Chi has actually been suggested as a means of improving balance in order to reduce the risk of falls in senior citizens.

A systematic review of scientific research into the use of Tai Chi as a balance improvement exercise for senior citizens found that Tai Chi was an effective means of helping people to improve their balance. The majority of the studies that were included in this review featured Yang style Tai Chi practiced for at least 12 weeks with sessions of at least 45 minutes, at least twice a week. (Liu 2010)

A wide range of different studies have examined the effects of Tai Chi on balance improvement in different populations of people, including those who have been affected by balance disorders, senior citizens who are at the greatest risk of incurring injuries from falls, and people recovering from various medical conditions, including strokes and spinal injuries.

The studies have also varied in terms of the types of Tai Chi exercises that have been used and the intensity and duration of the exercise programs.

In a short-term study which involved people taking part in an intensive course of Tai Chi over just six days, it was found that participants were already showing improvements in balance when they finished this course, after practicing Tai Chi for less than a week. The improvements were generally greater when the participants were older. Balance before and after the course of Tai Chi was measured using a device that monitored body sway as participants stood on stable and unstable surfaces, with their eyes open or closed. (Li 2010)

Studies of the longer term effects of Tai Chi on balance have also been conducted. One study compared the balance of two groups of older people. One group was made up of experienced practitioners of Tai Chi, with an average of 13.2 years experience. The other group consisted of people with no Tai Chi experience. This study found that the Tai Chi group showed significantly better results in tests of balance as well as in flexibility and cardiovascular health. Balance was tested through assessments involving standing on one leg with eyes closed. (Hong 2000)

In a similar study of the long-term effects of Tai Chi on balance, a group of elderly Tai Chi practitioners was compared not only with a group of similarly aged people who did not practice Tai Chi, but also with a group of healthy young university students. This study found that the Tai Chi practitioner group had significantly better balance than the same age group of non-practitioners. It also showed that the balance of the senior Tai Chi practitioners was just as good as that of the young student group. Balance in this study was measured by monitoring sway under various conditions which made balancing more difficult, for example, when visual cues for balance were unavailable. (Tsang 2004) It seems that regular, long-term practice of Tai Chi can help people to retain the balancing ability that they have when they are young. Balance usually declines with age, resulting in a higher risk of falls and injuries. Practicing Tai Chi can help to improve balance and keep people safe as they age.

Studies of the effects of Tai Chi on balance have not been limited to senior citizens or to patients in whom the practice of Tai Chi can be used for therapeutic purposes. Researchers have also examined the improvements in balance that have been experienced by young, healthy people. One study examined the improvements in balance and various other factors that was experienced by a group of people aged 20 to 45 when they participated in a 12 week course of Tai Chi. This study required the participants, who had not previously practiced Tai Chi, to take part in three sessions per week over the course of the study. They learned 108 difference forms during this time. Their balancing ability was measured before and after the study, through assessments of their stability. A control group was also assessed at the study’s beginning and end, but these participants did not practice any Tai Chi. After the completion of the study, the Tai Chi group showed a significantly greater improvement in lateral stability over the course of the study than the control group. The Tai Chi group also showed a significantly improved kinesthetic sense (or proprioception, the sense of the relative positioning of different parts of the body that plays a part in balance) when assessed at 60 degrees, although they did not show an improvement at either of the lower angles that were tested. The researchers suggested that this was because the exercises performed during the Tai Chi sessions did not commonly involve these lesser angles. The study showed that Tai Chi can improve stability and balance in young, healthy adults, but it also implied that the forms of Tai Chi that are practiced will have an effect on the benefits that are experienced. A greater range of exercises may help Tai Chi practitioners to improve their balance when performing different types of activities in different situations. (Jacobsen 1997)

The improvements in balance that have been experienced by people taking part in Tai Chi studies has varied a great deal. Some have shown improvements in balance assessments of just 10 percent, while others have demonstrated improvements of 50 percent or more. In one study, a group of senior citizens who were experienced practitioners of the Tai Chi were found to have balance that was as good as that of a group of young adults. (Tsang 2004)

References:

Hong, Y. Li, JX, Robinson, PD. (2000) Balance control, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory fitness among older Tai Chi practitioners Br J Sports Med 34:29-34 Available online at http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/34/1/29.abstract Accessed 21/01/2011

Jacobsen, BH. Chen, HC. Cashel, C. Guerrero, L. (1997) The effect of T’ai Chi Chuan training on balance, kinesthetic sense, and strength. Percept Mot Skills. Feb 84(1)27-33 Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9132718 Accessed 21/01/2011

Li, H. Waite, GN. Moga, MM. Lam, P. Geib, RW. (2010) Balance improvements after a week-long tai chi workshop as determined by dynamic posturography Biomed Sci Instrum 46:172-7 Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20467090 Accessed 21/01/2011

Liu, H. Frank, A. (2010) Tai Chi as a Balance Improvement Exercise for Older Adults: A Systematic Review Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy 33(3):103-9 Available online at http://journals.lww.com/jgpt/Abstract/2010/07000/Tai_Chi_as_a_Balance_Improvement_Exercise_for.2.aspx Accessed 21/01/2011

Tsang, WW. Wong, VS. Fu, SN. Hui-Chan, CW. Tai Chi improves standing balance control under reduced or conflicting sensory conditions. Arch Phys Med Rehabil Jan 85(1):129-37 Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14970980 Accessed 21/01/2011

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Tai Chi Helps Senior Citizens Maintain Mobility

Tai Chi overlooking the ocean

Tai Chi has proven to be an incredibly effective form of exercise for seniors. It is not only a means through which the more active senior citizens can enjoy exercise, but it has also been adapted for use by the frailer seniors who might otherwise be living completely inactive lifestyles. As well as offering senior citizens a gentle form of exercise to enjoy, Tai Chi has also been proven to have some important health benefits for older people.

Participating in Tai Chi can help keep senior citizens more active and mobile. It can reduce the effects of age related conditions that reduce mobility, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and it can improve balance and strength to help prevent falls among the elderly.

Tai Chi has shown potential as a form of therapy for patients who are affected by rheumatoid arthritis, which is a painful and debilitating condition that commonly affects seniors. People affected by this condition have shown improved mobility following a course of Tai Chi. Participants in this study also gained a more positive mindset and they experienced less pain. Tai Chi significantly improved the health and quality of life of these patients. (Wang 2008)

Osteoarthritis is another common condition in old age that can result in reduced mobility. Tai Chi has been shown not only to increase mobility and reduce fear of falling in patients affected by this condition, but also to help to improve bone density. (Song et al. 2010)

In addition to helping to improve mobility by reducing the effects of particular conditions, Tai Chi has also helped to keep senior citizens safer by preventing falls. A fall can have serious consequences for an older person so preventing them can help to keep people out of hospital and it can even help to prevent fatalities.

Participating in Tai Chi has been shown to help reduce the number of falls among older people. This reflects the improved strength, balance and mobility that is associated with participation in Tai Chi. (Li et al 2005)

As well as actually reducing the number of falls among populations of senior citizens, Tai Chi can help people to enjoy more active lifestyles. It can boost the confidence of older people by helping to improve their strength and balance. This can have psychological effects that are just as important as the increased physical mobility. Many older people, particularly if they are very frail or if they have previously experienced a serious fall, are very concerned about their mobility. They can become fearful of falling and find even the simplest physical activities such as getting in and out of a chair daunting. This can result in significantly reduced mobility since people can become too scared to stay active and they can begin to underestimate their own abilities. The improved mobility and confidence provided by Tai Chi can not only help to keep these senior citizens safer, but it can also relive them of some serious stress and worry. It can enhance psychological well-being and improve self-esteem among senior citizens. This can not only improve their own quality of life, but it can also make life easier for their carers. (Logghe et al 2010, Wang et al 2010)

Tai Chi can help senior citizens to cope with musculoskeletal and neurological conditions, thus helping to improve mobility, to alleviate pain and to improve balance. By keeping people active later in life, Tai Chi can enable people to remain healthier and more active, which can also help to make old age more enjoyable.

References:

Li, F. Harmer, P. Fisher, KJ. McAuley, E. Chaumeton, N. Eckstrom, E. Wilson, N. (2005) Tai Chi and Fall Reductions in Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trail. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 60(2):187-194 Available online at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15814861 Accessed 16/01/2011

Logghe, IH. Verhagen, AP, Rademaker, AC. Bierma-Zeinstra, SM. van Rossum, E. Faber, MJ. Koes, BW. (2010) The effects of Tai Chi on fall prevention, fear of falling and balance in older people: a meta-analysis. Prev Med Sep-Oct, 51(3-4):222-7. Epub Jun 15. Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20558197 Accessed 16/01/2011

Song, R. Roberts, BL. Lee, EO. Lam, P. BAE, SC. (2010) A randomized study of the effects of t’ai chi on muscle strength, bone mineral density, and fear of falling in women with osteoarthritis. J Altern Complement Med Mar 16(3):227-33. Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20192907 Accessed 16/01/2011

Wang, C. (2008) Tai Chi improves pain and functional status in adults with rheumatoid arthritis: results of a pilot single-blinded randomized controlled trial. Med Sport Sci. 52:218-29. Available online at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18487901 Accessed 16/01/2011

Wang, C. Bannuru, R. Ramel, J. Kupelnick, B. Scott, T. Schmid, CH. Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complement Altern Med May 21, 10:23 Available online at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20492638 Accessed 16/01/2011

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