From Dr. Weil.com: April, 2007 T’ai Chi for a Healthy Immune System T’ai chi, long recognized for its positive effects on coordination, balance, relaxation and concentration, appears to have an exciting additional benefit: the ability to strengthen the immune system. That’s the conclusion of a new study from UCLA, which showed that practicing t’ai chi boosted immunity against shingles to a level comparable to that offered by the vaccine against the virus that causes the nasty, painful rash. The study involved 112 adults aged 59 to 86. Half took T’ai chi classes three times a week for 16 weeks while the other half attended classes on diet, sleep habits and stress management but did no t’ai chi. After 16 weeks, all the participants received a dose of the shingles vaccine, Varivax. By the end of the 25 week study, the t’ai chi group had immunity levels measured at twice that of the other group. The researchers said that their findings have implications for boosting resistance to flu, pneumonia and other infectious diseases. The UCLA study was published in the April 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
From Dr. Weil.com: October, 2005 Healthy Aging - At Any Age The aging process is a natural part of life, and growing old is not something to deny, avoid or be afraid of. However, taking some simple steps now - no matter what your age - can help to make the physical and mental changes that accompany aging easier to handle. Regular exercise is an important step in the right direction, and one that can help lessen the risk of disease, promote quality sleep and increase energy. Daily physical activity completes an optimum approach to aging well, along with a sound diet, activities that stimulate your mind and maintaining social connections. Make sure that whatever type of exercise (or exercises) you decide to engage in, your body receives a workout for the heart, as well as for bones and muscles. Walking, strength training, yoga and T'ai Chi are some good choices; talk with your physician about options that are best for you.
Tai Chi Benefits General: “[Tai Chi] teaches inner strength while toning muscles, increasing flexibility, and boosting immune power. It is also said to reduce stress, store up energy, increase body awareness, and improve balance and coordination.” Psychological: Relative to baseline levels, [Test Subjects] reported less tension, depression, anger, fatigue, confusion, and state-anxiety; they felt more vigorous, and in general they had less total mood disturbance. Immune System: A study conducted in China indicates that Tai Chi may increase the number of T lymphocytes in the body. Also know as T-Cells, these lymphocytes help the immune system destroy bacteria and possibly even tumor cells. Balance: After adjusting for fall risk factors, Tai Chi was found to reduce the risk of multiple falls by 47.5%. "Many Tai Chi participants provided anecdotal testimony on aborted falls' events, independently reporting awareness of both the environment and appropriate body maneuvers in the presence of unexpected perturbations. Arthritis: No significant exacerbation of joint symptoms using [Tai Chi] was observed. Tai Chi exercises appear to be safe for rheumatoid arthritis patients...weight bearing exercises have the potential advantages of stimulating bone growth and strengthening connective tissue. Tai Chi can significantly reduce arthritic pain. Tai Chi helps reduce arthritis pain by increasing circulation and stimulating repair of damaged joint surfaces. "In addition, it stabilizes joint structure by strengthening the soft tissue support of the joint… Less pain promotes greater physical function of the affected joint and decreases the adverse mental health affects related to living with arthritic pain. Cardiorespiratory Function: Practicing Tai Chi regularly may delay the decline of cardiorespiratory function in older individuals. In addition, Tai Chi may be prescribed as a suitable aerobics exercise for older adults. Strength and Flexibility: “Cardiorespiratory function, strength, flexibility, and percent of body fat were evaluated before and at the end of this study. Cardiorespiratory function, strength, and flexibility improved significantly in the Tai Chi group … our data indicated that Tai Chi training could result in an increase of 15-20% in strength of knee extensor/flexor. Although Tai Chi practice needs no instrument and employs only postural change, it can significantly enhance the strength of lower limbs. Blood Pressure: Systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased over the 12 weeks of Tai Chi practice.12, 13 Bone Density: Tai-Chi as an intervention to increase bone mineral density (BMD) in a healthy female population; Regular Tai-Chi exercise improved total hip BMD.14