Researchers in Arizona, California, and North Carolina analyzed 77 studies related to Tai Chi and Qigong. Their review indicated the two practices can have a positive effect on bone health, cardio-respiratory fitness, balance, accidental falls, and psychological benefits (presumably stress reduction).
Arizona State Professor Linda Larkey said, “We see this as moving the understanding of the potential of Qigong and Tai Chi forward, with an emphasis on combining the evidence across these practices.” The studies they reviewed focused on psychological symptoms, cardiopulmonary effects, quality of life, immune function, accidental falls, bone density and physical function. They were conducted between 1993 and 2007 in thirteen different countries. The number of participants in all the studies was 6,410.
Their study says, “The strongest, most consistent evidence is demonstrated for effects on bone health, cardiopulmonary fitness, some aspects of physical function, QOL, self-efficacy, and factors related to falls prevention.” Other good news is that the health benefits can be achieved even with the less complicated Tai Chi routines . Said Dr. Shin Lin, “The research studies reviewed here showed that simplified routines that are more practical…are in fact quite effective in health enhancement.”
So what does the research mean for you? It means that you might want to consider trying Tai Chi and/or Qigong if you are looking for a low-impact fitness program that could also reduce stress by calming the mind. Low impact exercise is good for people with joint pain, or those wanting to be careful about joint health. (Examples of high impact activities are basketball, and jogging.) If you are open to trying it, the question is where to find a class or how to start. Classes are held in YMCA’s, gyms, martial arts centers, and schools. If you want to do some research first, there are many introductory videos on YouTube.
Tai Chi is practiced by many. In 2007 a U.S. government survey showed as man as 2.3 million Americans could be practicing Tai Chi. It is considered by some to be a fitness and health practice now, but began in China as a martial art. Older people often try it to help with joint stiffness and arthritis. Tai chi can be practiced without purchasing any equipment or special clothing.
Qigong is a system of thought and movement believed to help with energy flow. Meditation and physical exercises are two components.
Image Credit: Diana Bella
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