Ancient Chinese Martial Art
Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese martial art, has been found to increase brain volume and is linked to better memory in elderly who practice three times a week. Scientists from the University of South Florida and Fudan University in Shanghai conducted an 8-month study on seniors who practiced the slow, rhythmic movements designed to promote inner peace. Those participating in the Tai Chi exercise group performed better on psychological tests of memory and thinking. Past research has found that the physical exercise of the practice increases production of brain growth factors. Seniors who exercise and who remain mentally active have a lower risk of the most debilitating form of memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease.
Improves Quality of Life
A study found that tai chi may give people with chronic heart failure the confidence to exercise and improve mood, increasing quality of life. Researchers looked at 100 people with chronic heart failure, 50 of whom did two one-hour sessions and 50 who received classroom instruction in heart education. Questions about their emotional state demonstrated an improvement in the tai chi group. Heart failure ends up impairing mobility and makes breathing difficult, but these results suggests that tai chi can be used in conjunction with current therapies to manage chronic heart failure and is less risky than low-to-moderate intensity exercise training. Tai chi is safe and most stick to a regimen and previous research suggests it helps people who have hypertension, fibromyalgia and stress.
Muscle Strength Too
Green tea polyphenols (GTP) have been associated in studies to have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, possibly due to the compounds’ ability to reduce chronic levels of inflammation. A researcher from the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center has found that green tea may also work synergistically with tai chi to enhance bone strength, thus preventing the onset of osteoporosis. Dr. Chwan-Li Shen studied 171 postmenopausal women with weak bones but not diagnosed with full-fledged osteoporosis. Those who consumed GTP at a level equivalent to 4-6 cups of steeped green tea daily and participated in tai chi showed enhanced markers of bone health by 3 and 6 months. The women also had increased muscle strength at 6 months.
May Lower Need for Some Meds
Tai chi, in combination with medical treatment, minimizes depression in the elderly, heightens memory and cognition and improves quality of life, say UCLA researchers. For the study, depressed adults, ages 60 and older, were treated with the antidepressant escitalopram. Some participants took a tai chi class while others received health education. Researchers found significant improvement in symptoms of depression for 94% of tai chi participants versus 77% improvement for those who received health education. "... adding a mind-body exercise like tai chi that is widely available in the community can improve the outcomes of treating depression in older adults, who may also have other, co-existing medical conditions, or cognitive impairment,” says first author Dr. Helen Lavretsky.
Reduces Chronic Pain
Tai chi, an ancient Chinese practice of slow exercises, breathing and meditation, was found to benefit patients with fibromyalgia, finds a study published in the NE Journal of Medicine. A clinical trial at Tufts Med. Ctr. found that patients with fibromyalgia, who practiced tai chi for 12 weeks, experienced a significantly greater reduction in pain, fatigue and depression than a control group that participated in stretching exercises. Plus, tai chi practitioners sustained benefits three months after their initial evaluation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fibromyalgia, which affects about five million Americans, is difficult to diagnose and treat effectively. These new findings have researchers encouraged although additional studies are recommended.
Positive Effect on Mind and Body
The ancient Chinese wellness practices of tai chi and qigong provide many physical and mental health benefits, according to an analysis by Arizona State University researchers which included 77 published studies and over 6,000 participants. The studies, published between 1993 and 2007, found that the physical movements and slow, meditative breath and mind regulation had a positive effect on bone health, cardio-respiratory fitness, balance, and psychological health, such as stress reduction. Lead researcher Linda Larkey says that the “combination of self-awareness with self-correction of the posture and movement of the body…are thought to comprise a state that activates the natural (self-healing) capacity.” The study is published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.