Over 35 years ago fitness industry visionary Ruth Stricker discovered tai chi, and it changed everything. “Tai chi is my favorite subject,” she laughs. “I’ve been to China 14 times—I kept going back because I just love the philosophy. It was the philosophy of tai chi that inspired The Marsh.”
Qigong, a mind-body exercise from traditional Chinese medicine, can help people with chronic fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome to have more energy and to improve mental functioning, suggests a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine (2012; 44 , 160–70; doi: 10.1007/s12160-012-9381-6). In addition, with qigong practice came an associated increase in telomerase activity, which may shed light on the mechanism underlying the benefits of this type of exercise. Increased telomerase activity has been linked to a reduction in inflammation.
Research continues to substantiate the value of tai chi as a form of moderate exercise for people with chronic diseases. Scientists have now found that adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are among those who may benefit.
Middle-aged and older women with osteopenia who practiced tai chi over a 9-month period experienced a reduction in bone density loss and an improvement in postural control that reduced the risk of falls, according to authors of a randomized pilot study conducted in the Boston area. Harvard Medical School researchers designed the study to assess the effectiveness of tai chi and usual care compared with usual care alone for slowing bone loss in postmenopausal osteopenic women.
Pregnant women suffering from depression in their second trimester slept better and experienced less depression and anxiety when they participated in a weekly yoga and tai chi practice, according to researchers from the University of Miami Medical School.
They conducted the study to determine whether a nonpharmaceutical intervention could successfully help pregnant women with a variety of symptoms. The tai chi and yoga participants practiced in a group for 20 minutes per week over a 12-week period. Control group members did not change their routine activities.
Like people who regularly engage in moderate-intensity exercise, men who practice tai chi consistently for approximately 5-6 hours per week enjoy a reduced risk of earlier death, says a report in the American Journal of Epidemiology (2013; doi: 10.1093/aje/kwt050).
Tai chi offers short-term improvement of pain, physical function and stiffness for people with knee osteoarthritis, according to a research review published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine (2013; 21 , 396-406).
Scientists from University of Duisburg-Essen in Essen, Germany, reviewed five randomized, controlled trials with a total of 252 patients to assess the short- and long-term effectiveness of tai chi for people with this type of arthritis.
Regular tai chi practice may increase brain volume and improve memory and thinking among older adults who do not have dementia, according to findings published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (2012; 30, 757–66).