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Thread: Tai Chi as medicine

  1. #1
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    Tai Chi combats Shingles

    This in from Reuters recently.
    Tai chi boosts elderly immune system against shingles
    Fri Mar 23, 2007 3:51PM EDT
    NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A slow-movement form of exercise known as tai chi can strengthen the immune system in the elderly and boost the potency of a vaccine against the virus that causes shingles, researchers said on Friday.

    They found that tai chi, a westernized version of the 2,000-year-old Chinese martial art, improved the immune system in the elderly against the painful, blistery rash that is caused by the same virus as chickenpox.

    When tai chi, which involves a series of movements, was combined with a vaccine against shingles the immunity in the patients reached levels seen in younger people.

    "These are exciting findings, because the positive results of this study also have implications for other infectious diseases like influenza and pneumonia," said Professor Michael Irwin, lead author of the study from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

    "Since older adults often show blunted protective responses to vaccines, this study suggests that tai chi is an approach that might complement and augment the efficacy of other vaccines, such as influenza," he added in a statement.

    Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus. People who had chicken pox as children are susceptible to shingles. The virus can remain dormant in the body and as the immune system weakens with age it may cause shingles, which can be very painful and usually lasts three to five weeks.

    About one third of adults over 60 years old will suffer from shingles, according to the researchers.

    In a study published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Irwin and his team compared 112 elderly people who took tai chi classes three times a week for 16 weeks and others who attended health education classes.

    Both groups were also immunized with a dose of a shingles vaccine. At the end of the 25-week study the level of immunity of people who did tai chi was two times higher than the other group. They also functioned better physically and mentally.
    It's an expanded study of earlier work done by Prof. Michael Irwin. Here's an older report:

    Tai Chi for the Shingles
    Chinese meditation and exercise strengthen the body's immune system and are particularly beneficial for elderly adults.
    By:William Whitney

    Meditation and exercise are good for you: both practices improve flexibility, reduce stress and keep you in shape. As it turns out, these habits may help strengthen your immune system as well. A recent study of elderly adults who practiced Tai Chi finds the martial art increased immunity to shingles, a painful rash related to chicken pox.

    Chickenpox attacks are caused by the varicella zoster virus. Children who get the disease generally recover quickly, but the body doesn't completely get rid of the virus—it remains dormant in the nerve tissue of the body. With age, the weakening immune system may allow the virus to re-emerge as shingles: a painful rash that causes pain lasting for months of years.

    To find out if the virus might be held in check through a regular program of meditative exercise, Michael Irwin a professor at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute conducted a comparative study. He asked half of a group of 36 elderly adults to follow a 15-week program of Tai Chi Chih, a westernized version of the 3,000-year-old martial art Tai Chi Chuan. A week after the program was complete, Irwin measured the subjects' immune response to the shingles virus. As compared to the group who hadn't been exercising, this half of the study showed an average 50 percent increase in the immune cells. This helps control shingles and other diseases as well.

    The Tai Chi students' overall health improved. Adults who suffered from physical impairments, such as a limp, showed the greatest improvement.

    Although the study focused only on the shingles virus, Irwin expects similar results for other diseases. "I would expect to see changes across a whole host of responses for a whole host of various viral infections," he says.

    Tai Chi Chih is a standardized series of 20 movements developed for older adults. It combines meditation, relaxation and components of aerobic exercise. It is easy to learn, and can be taught from a manual.

    The report appeared in the September issue of Psychosomatic Medicine. Irwin plans a follow-up study to examine the duration of the increased immune response, and to investigate how Tai Chi actually improves health.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  2. #2
    cjurakpt Guest
    it's not a big deal, really - if you engage in any activity that increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, you take the body out of the inflammatory immune response; that's why you can see all kinds of "miracle" cures occur when people engage in various types of alternative healing - the body can take any number of different inputs and create a generalized "de-stress" response; this works best with chronic, non-resolving issues that typically are someho related to the inflammatory / immune response, but that the organism just can't work out for any number of reasons; doing an activity like TCC works the system at a level where the parasympathetics are tonified to re-balance overall autonomic tone; you also decrease aberrant muscle tone of the rib cage / respiratory diaphragm and pelvic diaphragm, which all create a more healthy environment for abdominal and thoracic visceral function (if you digest and eliminate better, that takes a lot of stress off the system to begin with - not glamorous, but it works); the nervous system also becomes less aggitated, and that can help shingles, because it often occurs along a specific dermatomal pathway associated with a specific spinal innervation level; finally, if you do TCC correctly, you stimulate lymphatic drainage, which enhances the clearing of metabolic by-products in the body, again improving overall function; finally, psychologically you start to feel better, which creates a positive feedback loop to continually reinforce what is happening structurally...

  3. #3
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    not a big deal to you...

    ...but don't miss the forest for the trees. I'm sure all of us who practice Tai Chi see its therapeutic benefits on many subjective levels. Tai Chi is good food, right?

    Where Prof. Michael Irwin's is interesting is the fact that he just got international press (Reuters) for his research. I find any published academic research to be a fairly big deal, especially when it spills over into the popular press. As a publisher, I'm keenly interested in the perception of Tai Chi by the general public. The Reuters coverage of Irwin's work totally fits into how America wants to perceive Tai Chi.

    The other thing I find very interesting about the first study is that it's based on Tai Chi Chih.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  4. #4
    cjurakpt Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by GeneChing View Post
    ...but don't miss the forest for the trees. I'm sure all of us who practice Tai Chi see its therapeutic benefits on many subjective levels. Tai Chi is good food, right?

    Where Prof. Michael Irwin's is interesting is the fact that he just got international press (Reuters) for his research. I find any published academic research to be a fairly big deal, especially when it spills over into the popular press. As a publisher, I'm keenly interested in the perception of Tai Chi by the general public. The Reuters coverage of Irwin's work totally fits into how America wants to perceive Tai Chi.

    The other thing I find very interesting about the first study is that it's based on Tai Chi Chih.
    when I say no big deal, what I mean is that 1) from a western objective anatomical / physiological perspective it makes perfect sense - as oposed to somone being like "OMG, I just can't believe that TC would have this effect, I can't imagine how itcwould."; and 2) that it is not something particularly unique to TC per se either: if we generalize the type of activity TC encompasses, we can find correlates in many other systems of movement, eastern & western (yoga, Feldenkreis, Arika Gym, etc.) - so, I'm actually sanding back looking at the entire forest, saying that there are many types of different trees, and that many have similar effects deriving from their intrinsic "tree-ness" ( )

    but I see your point and agree that it's great to have that type of press - again, I just hate to see it relegated to the reaslm of the phantastic - the TC, because it's some sort of esoteric eastern practice, has this unique effect that we can't explain in terms more digestable to the western perspective...

  5. #5

    Tai Chi Heals!!

    I am new to the whole tai chi martial art. I was first introduced to it by a friend i met in a book store. He introduced me to a teacher and i became a believer, as they say. I met this guy who couldn't move his body because of arthritis and after a year you would never tell he had this condition. Not to mention the teacher, he was wounded in vietnam and was told he may not walk on one of his leg again. He meet a soldier who started teaching him northern shoalin kung fu and tai chi.
    I just wanted to shear this with everyone. Hopefully i will start studying tai chi from a teacher that teaches pai lum kung fu and tai chi. tell me what you guys think about this.
    GET PAID TO POST ON FORUMS:
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  6. #6
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    I read, "Tai Chi Combat Shingles", and immediately thought Gene was pushing a video of a form using Chinese roofing tiles as a weapon.
    I have no idea what WD is talking about.--Royal Dragon

  7. #7
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    Tai Chi as medicine

    Study: Tai Chi good for people with type II diabetes

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7322665.stm

    here it is.
    Bless you

  8. #8
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    Granted, I practice Taijiquan and have for a long time. I like it a lot...

    But, studies like these are flawed. They do not mention an obvious control group...that is, where is the group that did low impact aerobics or some other type of exercise the same way?

    They mention in one study doing 60 to 90 minutes of Taijiquan 3 times a week and having a video to refer to when at home. They should also do this with something like Yoga, Pilates, NIA, even, god forbid, Jazzercise.

    From what they published, you can't tell if Taijiquan did any better than any other form of exercise in helping the people with Type II Diabetes. You also can't tell if it did any worse, if Qi Gong by itself would have had an impact, and so on.

    They do mention – just in passing sort of – the benefits of stress reduction on their Diabetes. However, again, the approach as described really doesn’t make much distinction between Taijiquan practice and other exercise/stress reduction approaches.

    It has long been known that one of the things that will help Type II Diabetes is exercise. So, no big surprise that Taijiquan is a form of exercise. What I would like to see is if there is any BETTER benefit over plain exercise.

  9. #9
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    more follow up

    there's some more specifics in this report
    Tai Chi Helps Improve Type 2 Diabetes
    Tuesday, April 1, 2008 8:25 AM

    Tai Chi exercises can improve the control of type 2 diabetes, suggests a small study, published ahead of print in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

    Tai Chi Chuan is a traditional Chinese martial art, which combines deep diaphragmatic breathing and relaxation with gentle movement.

    The research team assessed the impact of a 12 week programme of Tai Chi exercises on the T helper cell activity of 30 patients with type 2 diabetes and 30 healthy people of the same age.

    T cells are a key component of the body’s immune system, producing powerful chemicals, including interleukins, which alter the immune response.

    Type 2 diabetes is associated with chronic inflammation, caused by excessive glucose in the blood (hyperglycaemia).

    After the 12 week programme glycated haemoglobin (when excess blood sugar combines with the oxygen transporter in red blood cells) levels fell significantly from 7.59% to 7.16 in the diabetic patients.

    And levels of interleukin-12, which boosts the immune response, doubled. Levels of interleukin-4, which suppresses the immune response, fell.

    T cell activity also significantly increased.

    Strenuous physical activity depresses the immune system response, but moderate exercise seems to have the opposite effect, say the authors. Tai Chi is classified as moderate exercise.

    Previous research has shown that it boosts cardiovascular and respiratory function, as well as improving flexibility and relieving stress, they add.

    Tai Chi may prompt a fall in blood glucose levels, or improve blood glucose metabolism, sparking a drop in the inflammatory response.

    Alternatively, the exercise may boost fitness levels and the feeling of wellbeing, which may then boost the health of the immune system, they suggest.

    In a separate study, also published ahead of print, a 12 week programme of Tai Chi and Qigong (another Chinese exercise) prompted a significant fall in blood glucose levels and significant improvements in other indicators of the metabolic syndrome in 11 middle aged to older adults.

    The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms, including high blood pressure and high blood glucose that is associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

    The 13 participants exercised for up to 1.5 hours, up to three times a week, and were also encouraged to practice the exercises at home.

    At the end of the 12 weeks, they had lost an average of 3 kg in weight and their waist size had dropped by an average of almost 3 cm.

    Their blood pressure also fell significantly, and by more than would have been expected from the weight loss alone, say the authors.

    Three people no longer met the criteria for metabolic syndrome.

    Participants said they slept better, had more energy, felt less pain and had fewer food cravings while on the programme.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  10. #10
    cjurakpt Guest
    it's nice to see - but again, as GLW pointed out, is there anything particularly "special" about taiji that makes it a better choice of exercise than, say, taking a brisk walk, or doing any sort of moderate exercise program consistently? there would need to be comparative groups run to see if taiji conferred anything beyond something like Pilates, etc. (personally, I think the results would be about the same);

    what might, in fact, make it "better", are things not directly related to the actual movements, but rather factors that contribute to the psychological state of participants: for example, it's exotic, as compared to something like aerobics, and as the saying goes "the local ginger never tastes as good..."; also, taiji is usually done in a group setting and in a manner that allows for frequent interaction (e.g. - push hands), so there is a definite social aspect (which in and of itself has physiological "de-stressing" benefits); finally, it's perceived as open-ended: meaning that, as opposed to an aerobic program which is somewhat of a finite skill set, taiji is portrayed as being an endless journey, meaning that there is always the possibility finding something new in it - and we as humans thrive on novelty, that could help keep people interested over time; actually, you could make the argument that these factors alone might have caused the measured changes in blood values, based on the fact that stress levels are higher in lonely, bored people

    of course, it's good that this sort of research is done, because it at least shows that taiji in and of itself "works" in a way that you can substantiate it within the healthcare field, and even to third party payers...

  11. #11
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    Exactly what I was getting at. I have yet to see a study that had one group do nothing, one do a good program of Taijiquan or Qi Gong, and then another group do something that would sort of simulate the external obvious aspects of Taijiquan.

    For example, in this case, they mention the stress reduction aspect as well as the exercise aspect. So, for the third group, you could do something like have a group of people that did 60 to 90 minutes of walking at the same heart rate as the Taijiquan group to this the right aerobic level...and add in with the walking relaxation techniques such as creative visualization....but deliberately exclude any form of breathing that would accidentally make this something closer to Qi Gong.

    What I would hope to see is that the third group did better than the group that did nothing and the Taijiquan group did better than the third group.

    A well constructed study like this would generate a much larger interest and be harder to refute than most studies I have seen.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by GLW View Post
    Exactly what I was getting at. I have yet to see a study that had one group do nothing, one do a good program of Taijiquan or Qi Gong, and then another group do something that would sort of simulate the external obvious aspects of Taijiquan.
    These results aren't all that surprising, are they?

    Instead of comparing a group doing nothing to a group doing Tai Ji, I'd rather see a study comparing a group doing nothing to a group doing Zhan Zhuang. Not that the results should be any more unpredictable...

    CSP
    "It is the peculiar quality of a fool to perceive the faults of others and to forget his own." -Cicero

  13. #13
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    Actually, the way the study is reported, you can't discern if the benefit is due to Taijiquan or simply due to doing some form of exercise that also has a component of stress reduction mixed with the low impact low level aerobic activity,

    However, in these cases, either the person running the study already has an idea of what they want to show or they do not know how to set up the control groups to measure what they want to measure.

    With this study, you can say that Taijiquan benefits a Type II Diabetic...but you can't say it benefits them any more or any less than other forms of activity that may be studied.

    Nowhere close to definitive.

  14. #14
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    The results aren't as exciting...

    ...as is the fact that they are getting exposure. Now two media sources have latched on to the story and reported it to the general public. That's interesting to me. As a reporter of martial arts, I'm always intrigued to see which stories get reported outside of the martial arts circles. That's why I post so many news article clippings (if that term could be used for the web) here on the forum. It's very important to see how the public perceives us.
    Gene Ching
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by GLW View Post

    But, studies like these are flawed. They do not mention an obvious control group...that is, where is the group that did low impact aerobics or some other type of exercise the same way?
    One thing I wonder too is how can you do a controlled, randomized, DOUBLE-BLINDED study for exercise. Is it even possible?

    The researchers could be blinded but there's no way to blind the person doing the exercise. There is no "placebo" exercise that you could do.

    How might this bias the results of exercise studies?

    EO

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