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Posted by: Scott Stewart, MSAc., Dipl., Ac., LAc.
A small Virginia University study published in June examined the effects of tai chi on a small group of women at risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The randomized trial included 63 women participants between the ages of 35 and 50.
The intervention lasted 8 weeks and measured behavioral factors associated with CVD risk such as; fatigue, digestive symptoms, perceived stress, mindfulness, spiritual thoughts & behaviors, and self-compassion. Biological measures included: lipids, C-reactive protein, inflammatory markers, fasting glucose and insulin.
At the end of the study it was found that tai chi decreases fatigue and after a two month follow-up, it was found that there was a significant decrease in inflammatory markers associated with CVD, as well as, increases in spiritual thoughts & behaviors, mindfulness and self-compassion.[i]
Even though this study was small, showed an age bias and had an ineffective control, it adds to an already growing number of studies showing the many benefits of tai chi, which are not limited to: increasing lower & upper body muscle strength[ii], improving balance and stability[iii], decreasing the fear of falling[iv] & decreasing falls in older patients[v], decreasing pain[vi], and improving the quality of life in chronically ill patients[vii].
Regardless of what the studies say, tai chi has been around for thousands of years, there’s a reason for this - it’s beneficial to one’s physical & mental health. Tai chi should be combined with other positive lifestyle choices like, eating healthy, exercising, yoga, meditation, etc., etc., in order to improve your health and prevent disease.
[i] Robins JL, Elswick RK Jr, Sturgill J, McCain NL. The Effects of Tai Chi on Cardiovascular Risk in Women. Am J Health Promot. 2016 Nov;30(8):613-622. Epub 2016 Jun 17.
[ii] Jahnke R, Larkey L, Rogers C, et al. A comprehensive review of health benefits of qigong and tai chi. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2010;24(6):e1–e25.
[iii] Li F, Harmer P, Fitzgerald K, et al. Tai chi and postural stability in patients with Parkinson’s disease. New England Journal of Medicine. 2012;366(6):511–519.
[iv] Kendrick D, Kumar A, Carpenter H, et al. Exercise for reducing fear of falling in older people living in the community. Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews. 2014;(11):CD009848. Accessed at http://www.thecochrane library.com on July 29, 2015.
[v] Gillespie LD, Robertson MC, Gillespie WJ, et al. Interventions for preventing falls in older people living in the community. Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews. 2012;(9):CD007146 [edited 2015]. Accessed at http://www.thecochrane library.com on July 29, 2015.
[vi] Hall AM, Maher CG, Lam P, et al. Tai chi exercise for treatment of pain and disability in people with persistent low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. Arthritis Care & Research. 2011;63(11):1576–1583.
[vii] Wang C, Bannuru R, Ramel J, et al. Tai chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2010;10:23.