Health Benefits of Tai Chi
Health Benefits of Tai Chi
Before tai chi’s introduction to Western students, the health benefits of tai chi chuan were largely explained through the lens of traditional Chinese medicine, which is based on a view of the body and healing mechanisms not always studied or supported by modern science. Today, tai chi is in the process of being subjected to rigorous scientific studies in the West. Now that the majority of health studies have displayed a tangible health benefits of tai chi in some areas to the practice of tai chi, health professionals have called for more in-depth studies to determine mitigating factors such as the most beneficial style, suggested duration of practice to show the best results, and whether tai chi is as effective as other forms of exercise.
Researchers have found that intensive tai chi practice shows some favorable effects on the promotion of balance control, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness and reduced the risk of falls in both healthy elderly patients, and those recovering from chronic stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attacks, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Tai chi’s gentle, low impact movements burn more calories than surfing and nearly as many as downhill skiing.
Tai chi, along with yoga, has reduced levels of LDLs 20–26 milligrams when practised for 12–14 weeks. A thorough review of most of these studies showed limitations or biases that made it difficult to draw firm conclusions on the health benefits of tai chi. A later study led by the same researchers conducting the review found that tai chi (compared to regular stretching) showed the ability to greatly reduce pain and improve overall physical and mental health in people over 60 with severe osteoarthritis of the knee. In addition, a pilot study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, has found preliminary evidence that tai chi and related qigong may reduce the severity of diabetes.
A recent study evaluated the effects of two types of behavioral intervention, tai chi and health education, on healthy adults, who after 16 weeks of the intervention, were vaccinated with VARIVAX, a live attenuated Oka/Merck Varicella zoster virus vaccine. The tai chi group showed higher and more significant levels of cell-mediated immunity to varicella zoster virus than the control group which received only health education. It appears that tai chi augments resting levels of varicella zoster virus-specific cell-mediated immunity and boosts the efficacy of the varicella vaccine. Tai chi alone does not lessen the effects or probability of a shingles attack, but it does improve the effects of the varicella zoster virus vaccine.
Stress and mental health
There have also been indications that tai chi might have some effect on noradrenaline and cortisol production with an effect on mood and heart rate. However, the effect may be no different than those derived from other types of physical exercise. In one study, tai chi has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in 13 adolescents. The improvement in symptoms seem to persist after the tai chi sessions were terminated.
In June, 2007 the United States National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine published an independent, peer-reviewed, meta-analysis of the state of meditation research, conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta Evidence-based Practice Center. The report reviewed 813 studies (88 involving Tai Chi) of five broad categories of meditation: mantrameditation, mindfulness meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong. The report concluded that “[t]he therapeutic effects of meditation practices cannot be established based on the current literature,” and “[f]irm conclusions on the effects of meditation practices in healthcare cannot be drawn based on the available evidence.(p. 6)
Starfarm Tai Chi’s Laddie Sacharko is a tai chi teacher in ct whose main focus is the health benefits of tai chi.