Tai Chi Health Benefits continue to mount. The Chicago Tribune - August 25, 2009 printed a new and comprehensive report of the health benefits of tai chi.
In summary, the 2 page article stated:
"Tai chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched. Tai chi can be easily adapted for anyone, from the most fit to people confined to wheelchairs or recovering from surgery."
A thorough tai chi program should include "Qigong (or chi kung). Translated as "breath work" or "energy work," this consists of a few minutes of gentle breathing sometimes combined with movement. The idea is to help relax the mind and mobilize the body's energy. Qigong may be practiced standing, sitting, or lying down."
"Muscle strength. A 2006 study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Stanford University researchers reported benefits of tai chi in 39 women and men, average age 66, with below-average fitness and at least one cardiovascular risk factor. After taking 36 tai chi classes in 12 weeks, they showed improvement in both lower-body strength and upper-body strength."
"Flexibility. Women in the 2006 Stanford study significantly boosted upper- and lower-body flexibility as well as strength."
"Balance. Tai chi improves balance and, according to some studies, reduces falls. Proprioception -- the ability to sense the position of one's body in space -- declines with age. Tai chi helps train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments. Tai chi also improves muscle strength and flexibility, which makes it easier to recover from a stumble. Fear of falling can make you more likely to fall; some studies have found that tai chi training helps reduce that fear."
"Aerobic conditioning. Depending on the speed and size of the movements, tai chi can provide some aerobic benefits."
"When combined with standard treatment, tai chi appears to be helpful for several medical conditions. For example:
-- Arthritis. In a 40-person study at Tufts University, presented in October 2008 at a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, an hour of tai chi twice a week for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved mood and physical functioning more than standard stretching exercises in people with severe knee osteoarthritis."
"Low bone density. A review of six controlled studies by Dr. Wayne and other Harvard researchers indicates that tai chi may be a safe and effective way to maintain bone density in postmenopausal women."
"Breast cancer. Tai chi has shown potential for improving quality of life and functional capacity (the physical ability to carry out normal daily activities, such as work or exercise) in women suffering from breast cancer or the side effects of breast cancer treatment. For example, a 2008 study at the University of Rochester, published in Medicine and Sport Science, found that quality of life and functional capacity (including aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and flexibility) improved in women with breast cancer who did 12 weeks of tai chi, while declining in a control group that received only supportive therapy."
"Heart failure. In a 30-person pilot study at Harvard Medical School, 12 weeks of tai chi improved participants' ability to walk and quality of life. It also reduced blood levels of B-type natriuretic protein, an indicator of heart failure. A 150-patient controlled trial is under way.
--Hypertension. In a review of 26 studies in English or Chinese published in Preventive Cardiology (Spring 2008), Dr. Yeh reported that in 85 percent of trials, tai chi lowered blood pressure -- with improvements ranging from 3 to 32 mm Hg in systolic pressure and from 2 to 18 mm Hg in diastolic pressure.
-- Parkinson's disease. A 33-person pilot study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, published in Gait and Posture (October 2008), found that people with mild to moderately severe Parkinson's disease showed improved balance, walking ability, and overall well-being after 20 tai chi sessions.
--Sleep problems. In a University of California- Los Angeles, study of 112 healthy older adults with moderate sleep complaints, 16 weeks of tai chi improved the quality and duration of sleep significantly more than standard sleep education. The study was published in the July 2008 issue of the journal Sleep.
-- Stroke. In 136 patients who'd had a stroke at least six months earlier, 12 weeks of tai chi improved standing balance more than a general exercise program that entailed breathing, stretching, and mobilizing muscles and joints involved in sitting and walking. Findings were published in the January 2009 issue of Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair."