Tai Chi – great for health

The Covington News - - Society - Kir­ven Week­ley Colum­nist

Tai Chi is a 2,000year-old Chi­nese mar­shal art that has been found to have an abun­dance of health ben­e­fits for Amer­i­cans. It is a well known branch of Qigong, ex­er­cises that are de­signed to har­ness qi ( pro­nounced “ chee”) or life en­ergy. It is a se­ries of mar­tial arts move­ments ex­e­cuted care­fully with an em­pha­sis on deep breath­ing. Its move­ments can be adapted to al­most any­one, even those with ill­ness and dis­abil­i­ties. It can even be adapted for peo­ple in wheel­chairs.

Re­searchers aren’t sure ex­actly how, but stud­ies have shown that tai chi im­proves the qual­ity of life for those suf­fer­ing from breast can­cer and Parkin­son’s Dis­ease. It shows great prom­ise in treat­ing sleep­ing prob­lems and high blood pres­sure.

Chenchen Wang is an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of medicine at Tufts Uni­ver­sity who set out to an­a­lyze 40 stud­ies on tai chi in English and Chi­nese. He dis­cov­ered that tai chi did in fact pro­mote bal­ance, flex­i­bil­ity, car­dio­vas­cu­lar health and mus­cle strength. In com­par­i­son to brisk walk­ing and re­sis­tance train­ing, those who prac­ticed tai chi im­proved more than 30 per­cent in lower-body strength and 25 per­cent in arm strength. This was al­most as much as the weight­train­ing group, and bet­ter than the walk­ers. Ac­cord­ing to Wang, “ Ben­e­fit was also found for pain, stress, and anx­i­ety in healthy sub­jects.”

Glo­ria Yeh, an in­ternist and as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at Har­vard Med­i­cal School, re­viewed 26 stud­ies in English and Chi­nese in 2008. She re­ported that tai chi was able to lower blood pres­sure in 85 per­cent of tri­als. In other stud­ies, tai chi was found to re­duce blood lev­els of B-type na­tri­uretic pep­tide. This is a pre­cur­sor of heart fail­ure. Tai chi has also been found to main­tain bone den­sity in post­menopausal women. To help with arthri­tis, The Arthri­tis Foun­da­tion has de­vel­oped its own 12-move­ment tai chi se­quence.

Al­though Wang states that more stud­ies are needed, at this point it seems clear that tai chi has nu­mer­ous health ben­e­fits with­out sub­stan­tial de­trac­tors. Ac­cord­ing the New York Times per­sonal health writer Jane Brody, who re­viewed ex­ist­ing sci­en­tific lit­er­a­ture on the health ben­e­fits of tai chi, “… the proper ques­tion to ask your­self may not be why you should prac­tice tai chi, but why not.”

The first step in pur­su­ing tai chi is to find a good teacher. “ Learn­ing from a book or video just does not work,” stated Greg Wood­son, a tai chi teacher and vice pres­i­dent of the in­ter­na­tional T’ai Chi Foun­da­tion. A tai chi stu­dent needs im­me­di­ate, real time feed­back from a teacher who will in­sure the ex­er­cises are con­ducted cor­rectly. For ex­am­ple, feet need to be flat on the floor to avoid plac­ing stress on the knees. This is some­thing sub­tle that an ex­pe­ri­enced teacher can de­tect. Wood­son goes on to rec­om­mend find­ing a teacher with at least 10 years ex­pe­ri­ence. If less than that, look to see if they have the back­ing of a school or more ex­pe­ri­enced teacher.

To achieve the health ben­e­fits of tai chi, Wang rec­om­mends a min­i­mum of once or twice weekly ses­sions for 8 to 12 weeks.

C. Kir­ven Week­ley, Ph. D. is a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist with of­fices in Cov­ing­ton and Nor­cross. He spe­cial­izes in the eval­u­a­tion and treat­ment of adults for de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety, re­la­tion­ship prob­lems and med­i­cal is­sues. He can be reached at ( 770) 441-9244.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.