Move­ment as medicine: The power of tai chi

Texarkana Gazette - - SOCIETY/ADVICE - By Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. (c) 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Tai chi, the an­cient Chi­nese prac­tice that com­bines move­ment and med­i­ta­tion, is de­signed to help you achieve bal­ance, both phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally, and uses a se­ries of forms (po­si­tions) and mo­tions to ac­com­plish that. The end re­sult strength­ens ev­ery­thing from joint, mus­cle and heart health to im­proved cog­ni­tion and sleep qual­ity. Whether you are try­ing to main­tain your flex­i­bil­ity and men­tal agility as you age, re­store your health af­ter di­ag­no­sis with a dis­ease or im­prove func­tion post-surgery, tai chi is for you.

Re­search shows that tai chi pos­i­tively af­fects many bod­ily sys­tems, func­tions and or­gans:

One re­cent study in Com­ple­men­tary Ther­a­pies in Medicine found that, for folks with mild to mod­er­ate Parkin­son’s dis­ease, tai chi pro­vides “mod­er­ate to large ben­e­fi­cial ef­fects on mo­tor symp­toms, pos­tural in­sta­bil­ity, and func­tional mo­bil­ity.”

Other stud­ies il­lus­trate how much it helps to re­store move­ment, bal­ance and con­fi­dence for some­one re­cov­er­ing from a stroke.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cen­ter for Com­ple­men­tary and In­te­gra­tive Health, “a 2007 study on the im­mune re­sponse to vari­cella-zoster virus (chick­en­pox) sug­gested that tai chi may en­hance the im­mune sys­tem in older adults.”

Tai chi pro­tects against falls. A 2013 Cochrane re­view ex­am­ined fall pre­ven­tion in­ter­ven­tions for older folks and found that tai chi sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced the risk of fall­ing.

At Dr. Mike’s Well­ness Cen­ter at the Cleve­land Clinic, tai chi is of­fered for well­ness and dis­ease man­age­ment, since it strength­ens mus­cles, keep joints mov­ing, im­proves ar­te­rial flex­i­bil­ity and low­ers blood pres­sure. It also im­proves blood sugar con­trol, eases chronic pain and ac­ti­vates the parasym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem thanks to the long, deep breath­ing it re­quires.

The newest re­search also shows it’s ben­e­fi­cial if you have chronic pul­monary dis­ease, can­cer or os­teoarthri­tis.

In ad­di­tion to its far-reach­ing phys­i­cal ben­e­fits, tai chi has been shown to re­duce stress, ease de­pres­sion and im­prove cog­ni­tion.

For those with Alzheimer’s dis­ease, it’s brain pro­tec­tive: A study in the Jour­nal of Alzheimer’s Dis­ease found that par­tic­i­pants who did tai chi saw their brain vol­ume in­crease in size and they did bet­ter on cog­ni­tive func­tion tests. The group that didn’t do tai chi showed brain shrink­age over that same pe­riod.

A 2014 sys­tem­atic re­view and meta-anal­y­sis of 20 stud­ies (11 of which were ran­dom­ized con­trolled tri­als) in­volv­ing 2,553 par­tic­i­pants aged 60 and older with and with­out cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment, found ben­e­fi­cial ef­fects in healthy adults who prac­ticed tai chi, com­pared with non­in­ter­ven­tion and ex­er­cise con­trols.

A 2015 sys­tem­atic re­view of nine prospec­tive stud­ies (four ran­dom­ized con­trolled tri­als and five non­ran­dom­ized con­trolled tri­als) in­clud­ing 632 healthy adults, con­cluded that com­pared to usual phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties, tai chi showed ben­e­fi­cial ef­fects on cog­ni­tive abil­ity in healthy adults.

The Tai Chi for Health In­sti­tute points out that, since tai chi de­vel­oped around 3,000 years ago, sev­eral ma­jor styles de­vel­oped. Each style shares sim­i­lar es­sen­tial prin­ci­ples but con­tains dif­fer­ent fea­tures and char­ac­ter­is­tics. Some ex­am­ples:

Chen style tai chi is the orig­i­nal style; it al­ter­nates slow-mo­tion move­ments with short, fast, ex­plo­sive ones; it is very hard to find any prac­ti­tion­ers these days.

Yang style tai chi is the most pop­u­lar and widely prac­ticed; in Eng­land and Amer­ica, at least 20 main vari­a­tions ex­ist.

The Wu style is very slow and smooth, ex­ter­nally, with very strong in­ter­nal ben­e­fits to joints, deep in­ter­nal stretches and is a more med­i­ta­tive, quiet prac­tice. The Yang and Wu, with all their vari­a­tions, are done by 80 per­cent or more of all tai chi prac­ti­tion­ers.

Hao tai chi uses pos­tures and ac­tions that are sim­ple, com­pact and brisk.

Sun, the lat­est style, is suit­able for peo­ple with arthri­tis.

To find a prac­tice near you, check your lo­cal hos­pi­tal-based well­ness pro­gram or log on to the Amer­i­can Tai Chi and Qigong As­so­ci­a­tion web­site’s class lo­ca­tor on the home page at amer­i­can­taichi.net.

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