IMMUNE SYSTEM: A study conducted in China indicates that Tai Chi may increase the number of T lymphocytes in the body. Also know as T-Cells, these lymphocytes help the immune system destroy bacteria and possibly even tumor cells. Prevention Magazine V. 42, May, p.14-15
BREATHING, ACHES, BLOOD PRESSURE: ...Tai Chi participants observed a "big increase in breathing capacity", a disappearance of backaches and neck aches, those with high blood pressure claimed a drop of 10 to 15 mm Hg systolic at rest, and all participants claimed to have more energy in their daily work. Hawaii Medical Journal - Vol 51 No. 8 August
BALANCE: A ten year study on aging through Harvard, Yale and Emory University determined not only that Tai Chi was superior to more technological balance therapies, but that Tai Chi reduced the risk of injury by falling by 48%. Complications from these injuries are the sixth leading cause of death in older Americans, and account for about $10 billion loss per year to the economy. USA Today, May
MENTAL & PHYSICAL STRESS: Mind & body exercises, such as ... Tai Chi ... are increasingly replacing high-impact aerobics, long distance running and other body punishing exercises of the 1980's ...Mind/body workouts are kinder to the joints and muscles . . reduce the tension that often contributes to the development of disease, which makes them especially appropriate for high powered, stressed out baby boomers. Unlike most conventional exercises, these forms are intended to stretch, tone, an relax the whole body instead of isolating parts ... based on a series of progressive choreographed movements coordinated with deep breathing. Working Woman Magazine V 20 Feb. p. 60-62+
RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS: Tai Chi exercises appear to be safe for RA patients...weight bearing exercises have the potential advantages of stimulating bone growth and strengthening connective tissue, ... American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 70 (3) p. 136-141
CARDIO-RESPIRATORY EFFECTS: Conclusion: The data substantiate that practicing Tai Chi regularly may delay the decline of cardio-respiratory function in older individuals. In addition, TC may be prescribed as a suitable aerobics exercise for older adults. Journal of American Geriatric Society, 43 (11) p 1222-1227 ISSN 0002-8614 Journal Code: H6V
SPORTS HEALTH: [Former] Boston Celtic's star Robert Parish, who, at age 39, is the oldest player in the NBA, credits the ancient martial art of Tai Chi with his durability. Parish remains dominant in his 17th season in the league, and he has no plans to retire. He started all 79 games that he played last year for the Celtics, averaging 14.1 points, shooting 54 percent from the field and 77 percent from the free throw line, and racking up a season total of 705 rebounds and 97 blocked shots. Inspired by his success, fellow Celtics players Reggie Lewis and Rick Fox have signed on with Li (Parish's Tai Chi instructor). Gentlemen's Quarterly V. 62 Dec. 92, p 256-60 March
For anyone who practices Tai Chi regularly, “brain plasticity arising from repeated training may be relevant, since we know that brain connections are ‘sculpted’ by daily experience and practice,” explains Catherine Kerr of Harvard Medical School, who is investigating brain dynamics related to Tai Chi and mindfulness meditation at HMS. “Tai chi is a very interesting form of training because it combines a low-intensity aerobic exercise with a complex, learned, motor sequence. Meditation, motor learning, and intentional focus have all been shown in numerous studies to be associated with training-related changes—including, in some cases, changes in actual brain structure—in specific cortical regions. One reason Tai Chi is popular is that it is adaptable and safe for people of all ages and stages of health.”
A survey by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has supported studies on the effect of Tai Chi on cardiovascular disease, fall prevention, bone health, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis of the knee, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic heart failure, cancer survivors, depression in older people, and symptoms of fibromyalgia. One study on the immune response to varicella-zoster virus (which causes shingles) suggested in 2007 that Tai Chi may enhance the immune system and improve overall well-being in older adults.
Most recently, researchers have focused on balance issues and on cardiovascular and bone health—areas where tai chi’s benefits have begun to be evaluated most rigorously. “We’ve conducted systematic reviews of the literature, and in older people there is sound evidence that suggests Tai Chi can improve balance and reduce risks for falls, which have significant consequences on public health, particularly given our aging population,” the group reports.
A study by Fuzhong Li at the Oregon Research Institute (which carries out assessments of Tai Chi’s impact on health conditions, including a current project with Parkinson’s patients): looked at 256 elderly people, from 70 to 92 years old, and compared how they benefited from Tai Chi and seated exercise, respectively. “They reported greater than a 40 percent reduction in the number of falls in the group that received Tai Chi,” the group reports. “This is a very significant finding. Older people with thinning bones are at very high risk for fractures; a fall related to hip fracture, for example, is associated with a 20 percent increase in mortality within one year and very high medical costs.”
Studies conducted in Asia have reported that tai chi may benefit women with thinning bones. This has led a group of colleagues to pursue another current research project—a randomized controlled trial with post-menopausal women diagnosed with osteopenia that examines bone density markers as well as computerized motion analysis to quantify how Tai Chi affects weight-bearing in the skeleton.
In addition, the group has conducted clinical trials and basic research studies on patients with heart failure and the results “suggest tai chi may be of benefit to patients in terms of greater exercise capacity and quality of life.” The beauty and ease of Tai Chi offer multifold benefits as far as its daily practice: it is adaptable to numerous physical positions and requires no special equipment, expensive outfits, or specific athletic
conditioning. “It’s not a high-cardio workout, it’s all about deepening the relaxation in the movement. In aerobic exercise we’re taught to tense the muscle and push hard. Tai chi is the opposite approach; it’s about the flow of the whole body in the movement.”
One researcher stated; "Perhaps because of its adaptability, Tai Chi looks easy to do. Yet it’s hard to assess if you are doing it correctly without having a trained teacher or practitioner helping you. Most beginners will do the moves as if they were purely aerobic exercise. It will take a while for them to feel the exercise internally."