Originally published July 24 2008
Ancient Art of Tai Chi Provides Multiple Health Benefits
by Jeremiah Smith, PharmD
(NaturalNews) Tai chi ranks among the best forms of exercise for maintaining all-around health and wellness. The benefits that it offers go beyond physical fitness, also bringing mental and spiritual gains to those who practice this internal martial art.
Perhaps the best way to describe tai chi is to say that it involves flowing through a series of postures that are coordinated with deep breathing. While engaged in tai chi's graceful and sequenced movements, the focused attention that is required can effectively absorb an individual into a meditative state. In fact, tai chi is sometimes referred to as "meditation in motion."
There are well over 100 possible positions and movements within the tai chi skill set. All joints and major muscle groups are exercised continuously without the strain that can come from high-impact activities. That's why tai chi is suitable for people of virtually all ages and fitness levels.
The numerous benefits of tai chi include:
* Decreased blood pressure
* Strengthens muscles while developing flexibility
* Improved posture, balance and coordination
* Increased range of motion
* Decreased occurrence of injurious falls in the elderly
* Prevents or slows bone loss, especially in postmenopausal women
* Heightened mood and increased feelings of well-being
* Reduced levels of stress hormones
* Improved immune function
* Enhanced quality and duration of sleep
Tai chi has existed for centuries, and its benefits have been understood to some degree for just as long. Yet, only recently has Western medicine began probing for details specific to disease states and cellular effects.
Improves Type 2 Diabetes Control
A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine has shown that tai chi exercises can improve the condition of Type 2 diabetes.
The study engaged individuals with Type 2 diabetes in a 12 week program of tai chi and qigong, which is another "soft" martial art. Participants exercised for up to 1.5 hours up to 3 times per week. This activity led to a significant fall in blood glucose levels, along with significant improvements in other markers of metabolic syndrome.
At the conclusion of the 12 week period, blood pressure was significantly reduced and insulin resistance was substantially improved. The participants had lost an average of 3kg. They also reported having more energy, sleeping better, experiencing less pain, and having fewer food cravings during the study.
Tai Chi Boosts the Immune System
There is strong evidence for the positive effect of tai chi on immune function. Recent research measured both T-helper cell activity and interleukin levels in patients following 12 weeks of regular tai chi practice. Because T cells are a vital component of the body's immune system, they serve as an excellent indicator of immune status.
The researchers found that T cell activity was significantly increased at the study's conclusion. Furthermore, levels of interleukin-12 (IL-12) had doubled. IL-12 plays a role in further development and stimulation of T cells.
Another amazing testament to the power of tai chi comes from a report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. A study involving 112 adults, aged 59 to 86, showed that practicing tai chi boosted immunity against the herpes zoster virus –- this is the virus that's responsible for causing shingles, which manifests as a painful, blistery rash. In fact, tai chi alone bolstered immunity against the virus to a degree comparable to that achieved by the standard vaccine. That's right, tai chi works as well as the actual vaccine against shingles. Of course, the vaccine doesn't grant its recipient the countless other health benefits that come from regular tai chi practice.
For more information see:
Wikipedia, "Tai chi chuan," (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tai_chi_chuan)
About the authorJeremiah Smith is a licensed and practicing pharmacist with a strong interest in nutrition and natural medicine. He is driven by a thirst for knowledge and a passion for helping others achieve optimal health. Smith writes articles on a range of topics related to wellness. You can visit his website at (http://www.anewvision.info/)
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