According to the researchers, Tai Chi is a form of traditional Chinese exercise that purports to improve health by changes in mental focus, breathing, coordination and relaxation. The goal of Tai Chi is to “rebalance” the body’s own healing capacity. Tai Chi has been practiced in China for hundreds of years and is now widely practiced throughout the world. It has been estimated that over 100 million people regularly practice Tai Chi in China alone.
Previous studies have shown that Tai Chi can help to improve balance and prevent falls in the elderly, improve musculoskeletal conditions, lower hypertension, enhance cardiovascular and respiratory function, improve mental health, and enhance endocrine and immune functioning. This is Jungle Miami's subject today.
Tai Chi, Qigong Good for Body, Mind
Studies Finds Tai Chi and Qigong Have Physical, Mental Health Benefits
By Kathleen Doheny
Reviewed for WebMD by Laura J. Martin MD. July 2, 2010
The ancient Chinese wellness practices known as tai chi and qigong provide many physical and mental health advantages, including helping the heart, immune system, and one's quality of life, according to a new analysis
Linda Larkey, PhD, of Arizona State University, and her colleagues combed the medical literature, finding 77 published reports of scientific studies that looked at the two wellness practices and compared them to other exercises or to a sedentary state. The studies, published between 1993 and 2007, looked at tai chi and qigong and their effects on various outcomes, such as health, physical function, falls, quality of life, one's feeling of self-efficacy, immune system functioning, psychological symptoms, and other factors.
The 77 studies included 6,410 participants.
Both forms of activity incorporate a wide range of physical movements and slow, meditative, dance-like movements, Larkey writes. Both also include meditation postures and gentle or vigorous shaking of the body. They emphasize regulation of breath and mind coordinated with body regulation.
The new review, Larkey says in a news release, provides a ''stronger evidence base'' for the activities and their positive effects on bone health, cardio-respiratory fitness, physical functioning, balance, quality of life, fall prevention, and psychological health.
Although it was not possible to combine all the study results statistically and come up with a number describing the effect, the evidence of benefits is consistent, she says.
Exactly how do tai chi and qigong impart their benefits? "This combination of self-awareness with self-correction of the posture and movement of the body, the flow of breath, and mindfulness, are thought to comprise a state that activates the natural self-regulatory (self-healing) capacity," Larkey writes. That, in turn, helps trigger beneficial brain hormones and "a wide array of natural health recovery mechanisms.”
The study is published in the American Journal of Health Promotion