Medical Benefits of Tai Chi Articles

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Following are some article summaries from both popular and professional journals and magazines that explore the medical effects of T'ai Chi practice. They cover the gamut of benefits from blood pressure and arthritis reduction to sports visualization and gestalt therapy.

General Benefits: "[T'ai 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. T'ai Chi was the closely held secret of a few Chinese families for nearly 1,000 years." (Men's Health magazine. 8 Mar/Apr 1993, 66-69.)

Physiological Benefits: "Relative to measurement beforehand, practice of T'ai Chi raised heart rate, increased nonadrenaline excretion in urine, and decreased salivary cortisol concentration. 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." (American Psychological Association. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 33 (2) (1989) 197-206.)

Mental Homeostasis: "Psychological homeostasis refers to emotional control or tran-quility. It has been stated that the biological function of human emotion and repression is primarily homeostatic. Evidence suggests that a feedback relationship exists between forms of homeostasis, and the body-mind type of therapies (including acupuncture and T'ai Chi) thus have a combined physiological, physical, and psychological effect." (American Psychological Association. American Journal of Chinese Medicine 9 (1): 1-14 (Spring 1981).)

Immune System: "A study conducted in China indicates that T'ai 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." (Prevention Magazine. Vol. 42, May 1990, p.14-15.)

Breathing, Aches, Blood Pressure: "Participants observed a 'big increase in breathing capacity,' a disappearance of backaches and neck aches, those with high blood pressure claimed a drop of 10 to 15 mm Hg systolic at rest, and all participants claimed to have more energy in their daily work." (Hawaii Medical Journal. 51 (8) (August 1992).)

Balance: "A 10-year study on aging through Harvard, Yale, and Emory University determined not only that T'ai Chi was superior to more technological balance therapies, but also that T'ai Chi reduced the risk of injury by falling by 48 percent. Complications from these injuries are the sixth leading cause of death in older Americans, and account for about $10 billion loss per year to the economy." (USA Today. May 1996.)

Mental and Physical Stress: "Mind and body exercises, such as...T'ai Chi...are increasingly replacing high-impact aerobics, long distance running, and other body punishing exercises of the 1980s...Mind/body workouts are kinder to the joints and muscles...reduce the tension that often contributes to the development of disease, which makes them especially appropriate for high powered, stressed out baby boomers. Unlike most conventional exercises, these forms are intended to stretch, tone, and relax the whole body instead of isolating parts...based on a series of progressive choreographed movements coordinated with deep breathing." (Working Woman Magazine. V 20 Feb. 1995, 60-62+.)

Postural Control: "T'ai Chi, a traditional Chinese exercise, is a series of individual dance-like movements linked together in a continuous, smooth-flowing sequence...An analysis of variance (ANOVA) demonstrated that in 3 of 5 tests, the T'ai Chi practitioners had significantly better postural control than the sedentary non practitioners." (American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 46 (4): 295-300 (April 1992).)

Beyond Traditional Care: "Health practitioners encountering clients who are faced with problems that do not seem to respond to traditional health care...may employ some of the health traditions of other cultures and to view the body and mind as a balanced whole. Massage, acupuncture and T'ai Chi...focus on the mind/body connection to facilitate healing through relaxation, pressure points, and movement." (AAOHN Journal 41 (7): 349-351 (July 1993).)

Cures/Preventions: "Proponents claim that T'ai Chi can also (1) cure illnesses such as hypertension, asthma, and insomnia; (2) prevent arteriosclerosis and spinal deformity, and (3) shorten recovery phase from long-term illness. Results from a study by Chen Munyi (1963) with elderly T'ai Chi practitioners show that this group had RTs, strength, and flexibility superior to nonpractitioners." (American Psychological Association. American Journal of Chinese Medicine 9 (1): 15-22 (Spring 1981).)

Balance: "Institute of Chicago indicates that people with moderate balance problems can be helped by practicing T'ai Chi. Participants...of the 2-month course...experienced about a 10 percent improvement in balance. An Emory University study supports Hain's findings." (Prevention Magazine. V. 46 December 1994, 71-72.)

Rheumatoid Arthritis: "No significant exacerbation of joint symptoms using this weight bearing system of exercises (T'ai Chi) was observed. T'ai Chi exercises appear to be safe for RA patients...weight bearing exercises have the potential advantages of stimulating bone growth and strengthening connective tissue. (American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 70 (3): 136-141 (June 1991).)

Support Groups Recommending T'ai Chi: Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, Parkinson's Disease, Lupus, Migraines, Chronic Pain, AIDS: "Proper exercise [for AIDS sufferers] is typified by T'ai Chi. Dr. Laurence E. Badgley, M.D.

Psychology: "T'ai Chi is a natural and safe vehicle for both clients and staff to learn and experience the benefits of being able to channel, concentrate and co-ordinate their bodies and minds: to learn to relax and to 'neutralize' rather than resist the stress in their personal lives. This is an ability that we greatly need to nurture in our modern fast-paced society." (Dr. John Beaulieu, N.D., M.T.R.S. Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, New York. [Refer to the book The Supreme Ultimate for full text].)

T'ai Chi and Gestalt Therapy: "Discussion of T'ai Chi, a Chinese system of integrated exercises, as an effective adjunct to Gestalt Therapy." (American Psychological Association. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy 10 (1): 25-31 (Fall 1978).)

Psychosomatic Illness: "A holistic paradigm, T'ai Chi, is proposed as a theoretical basis for treating psychosomatic illness." (American Psychological Association. Journal of Black Psychology 7 (1): 27-43 (August 1980).)

T'ai Chi Helps Understand Change: "Suggests the imagery of the T'ai Chi figure...can serve as a model for understanding the processes of change within psychotherapy. The T'ai Chi figure expresses the themes of unity and completeness, the dynamic of interplay and balance of opposite forces, and the cyclical nature of therapeutic change." (American Psychological Association. Psychologia, An International Journal of Psychology in the Orient 34 (1): 18-27 (MArch 1991).)

Elderly: "According to T'ai Chi enthusiasts, the discipline can prevent many ailments, including high blood pressure, tuberculosis, and diabetes, and U.S. scientists agree that T'ai Chi can offer some important fitness benefits, particularly for older adults." (Modern Maturity. V. 35 June/July 1992, 60-62.)

Cardiorespiratory Effects: "Conclusion: The data substantiate that practicing T'ai Chi regularly may delay the decline of cardiorespiratory function in older individuals. In addition, TC may be prescribed as a suitable aerobics exercise for older adults." (Journal of American Geriatric Society 43 (11): 1222-1227 (November 1995) ISSN: 0002-8614 Journal Code: H6V.)

Sports Health: "[Former] Boston Celtic's star Robert Parish, who, at age 39, is the oldest player in the NBA, credits the ancient martial art of T'ai Chi with his durability. Parish remains dominant in his 17th season in the league, and he has no plans to retire. He started all 79 games that he played last year for the Celtics, averaging 14.1 points, shooting 54 percent from the field and 77 percent from the free throw line, and racking up a season total of 705 rebounds and 97 blocked shots. (Gentlemen's Quarterly. V. 62 December 1992, 256-60.)

"Inspired by his success, fellow Celtics players Reggie Lewis and Rick Fox have signed on with Li (Parish's T'ai Chi instructor)." (Gentlemen's Quarterly. March 13, 1999.)

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