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.”
The use of drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorders among American children and adults is growing, with over 3 million Americans currently managing symptoms by taking stimulants that target the neurochemical dopamine. Effective nondrug methods are needed to help young adults with ADHD. In addition, healthy young people ought to have ways to improve attention without using performance-enhancing drugs.
Qigong is another mind-body practice that may help people to manage stress, according to a research review of seven randomized, controlled trials available in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2014; doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-8). Researchers from the University of Hong Kong conducted the review to evaluate qigong’s ability to reduce stress and anxiety among healthy adults.
Growing research evidence supports the theory that tai chi provides not only physical benefits but also mental benefits. In a review of tai chi studies conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson, study authors found 10 studies that reported improvements in executive function, language, learning and/or memory among older adults who practiced tai chi regularly.
A pilot study conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the University of New Mexico Cancer Center recruited 40 prostate cancer survivors with high levels of fatigue in a 12-week randomized, controlled trial. Half of the subjects participated in qigong, and half took stretching classes.
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.