Tai Chi for Arthritis

An ancient Chinese exercise offers arthritis relief through slow, gentle movement.

A study released by researchers at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Mass., found that tai chi can specifically reduce the pain and physical impairment of people with severe knee osteoarthritis. 

Those results were no surprise to one of the biggest proponents of tai chi for people with arthritis, Dr. Paul Lam, a family physician in Sydney, Australia. Dr. Lam developed arthritis as a teenager growing up in China when malnourishment caused cartilage development problems. He began practicing tai chi to ease his arthritis pain, eventually modifying the popular Sun style of tai chi to make it easier for people with arthritis.

“A lot of people with arthritis don't know they can do tai chi,” he says. “Even though the Sun style is slow and gentle, it does have high-risk moves as well. That’s why we modified it. We took the part that was more effective for healing and put in modification so that anyone could do it.”

Dr. Lam’s 12-step course is the basis for the Arthritis Foundation tai chi program, which includes classes led by trained experts (contact a local Arthritis Foundation office for information on classes near you) and is also available as a DVD for at-home practice. No special equipment is required – just comfortable clothing, patience and an open mind. Reference:  Mary Jo DiLonardo article http://www.arthritistoday.org

The Effects of Tai Chi Chi on Immunity and Sleep

Tai Chi  not only calms the mind but also promotes healthy aging by improving viral immunity and sleep quality

The study conducted by Dr. Michael R. Irwin focuses on the Herpes Zoster, a virus which commonly afflicts older adults, and how a mind-body approach can complement vaccine usage by augmenting immune responses in these individuals. Dr. Irwin describes several studies, which suggest that the application of a relaxation-response based mind-body intervention promotes improvements in health functioning, viral specific immunity, and inflammation.

Michael R. Irwin, MD is the Cousins Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Science at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and the Director of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Reference: (UCLA.edu)

Medical Facts about Tai Chi

A resource guide to Published Studies on Tai Chi

Evidence-Based Research

Evidence-based means that the information presented is based on sound research, not someone's opinion.  This page is a resource of different studies, links to references and materials of the health benefites of Tai Chi that come from evidence-based research.  We will provide references to some of the latest studies, articles and research to help you understand the science that is behind the health benefits of regular practice of Tai Chi.  These are not claims made by Whitecrane Tai Chi (TM) but just a list of published references for your own use.

Dr Lam's Presentation at the America on Aging Conference 2014

Tai Chi Increases Brain Size, Improves Memory, Combats Alzheimer’s

Researchers have shown that regular practice of Tai Chi increases brain volume, augments memory and thinking skills, and may combat dementia

In a randomized controlled trial, researchers have shown that regular practice of Tai Chi in seniors increases brain volume and augments memory and thinking scores. Scientists collaborating from University of South Florida and Fudan University in China showed that Tai Chi that appears to actually increase brain volume. In this study, some participants practiced the ancient Chinese martial art three times weekly over an 8-month period while the control group received no intervention. Previous studies have demonstrated that aerobic exercise can increase brain volume but this is the first to study Tai Chi specifically. In fact, the researchers’ experiment even showed improvements on memory and thinking skills tests. These types of results show the treatment, Tai Chi, to be highly efficacious in combating dementia illnesses like Alzheimer’s. According to lead author Dr. James Mortimer, professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, “epidemiologic studies have shown repeatedly that individuals who engage in more physical exercise or are more socially active have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”


The "Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi"

Authors Wayne (a Harvard Medical School researcher and tai chi practitioner-teacher) and Fuerst (a medical writer) distill the essence of tai chi into eight active ingredients: awareness, intention, structural integration, active relaxation, strengthening and flexibility, natural breathing, social support, and embodied spirituality.

(Available on Amazon.com)

Conventional medical science on the Chinese art of Tai Chi now shows what Tai Chi masters have known for centuries: regular practice leads to more vigor and flexibility, better balance and mobility, and a sense of well-being. Cutting-edge research from Harvard Medical School also supports the long-standing claims that Tai Chi also has a beneficial impact on the health of the heart, bones, nerves and muscles, immune system, and the mind.

Dr. Peter M. Wayne, a longtime Tai Chi teacher and a researcher at Harvard Medical School, developed and tested protocols similar to the simplified program he includes in this book, which is suited to people of all ages, and can be done in just a few minutes a day.

Tai Chi Increases Balance in Parkinson’s Patients

New England Journal of Medicine

People with Parkinson's disease often have problems with balance and can suffer life-threatening falls. For patients with mild to moderate cases, a new study suggests that the ancient art of tai chi may significantly improve balance and reduce falls. Parkinson’s disease, which affects up to 1.5 million Americans, is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by problems with movement. Patients often have tremors, slowness, stiffness and difficulties with balance. Treatment can relieve some of these symptoms, but balance problems rarely respond to current approaches. A team of researchers led by Dr. Fuzhong Li of the Oregon Research Institute tested to see if tai chi might help. The study, funded by NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), appeared in the February 9, 2012, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers selected 195 patients with Parkinson’s disease who had some motor function deficits but were able to stand and walk independently. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 exercise programs: tai chi, resistance training or stretching. The tai chi program was designed to enhance balance and leaning strength. The resistance training program specifically strengthened upper and lower body muscles involved in balance. The stretching program preserved the social aspect and enjoyment of an exercise program without increasing muscle strength or balance. The groups met for hour-long classes twice a week for 24 weeks. The researchers then evaluated the participants on several aspects of balance and physical outcomes, including leaning, directional control, leg strength, stride length and walking speed. They found that, compared to stretching, tai chi increased every measure of balance and strength. Tai chi also brought greater improvements in leaning, stride length and directional control than resistance training. Based on reports by the participants, the tai chi group participants had 67% fewer falls than the stretching group during the 6 month study period. During the 3 months following the exercise program, the tai chi participants had significantly fewer falls than those in the other 2 groups. Thus, tai chi training may have long-lasting effects. “These results are clinically significant because they suggest that tai chi, a low-to-moderate impact exercise, may be used, as an add-on to current physical therapies, to address some of the key clinical problems in Parkinson’s disease, such as postural and gait instability,” says Dr. Li. This low-cost, simple activity could help improve the lives and safety of many patients with mild-to-moderate Parkinson’s disease. Reference: http://www.nih.gov/researchmatters

Tai Chi for other Medical Conditions

An ancient Chinese exercise offers arthritis relief through slow, gentle movement.

Low bone density. A review of six controlled studies by Dr. Wayne and other Harvard researchers indicates that tai chi may be a safe and effective way to maintain bone density in postmenopausal women. A controlled study of tai chi in women with osteopenia (diminished bone density not as severe as osteoporosis) is under way at the Osher Research Center and Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Breast cancer. Tai chi has shown potential for improving quality of life and functional capacity (the physical ability to carry out normal daily activities, such as work or exercise) in women suffering from breast cancer or the side effects of breast cancer treatment. For example, a 2008 study at the University of Rochester, published in Medicine and Sport Science, found that quality of life and functional capacity (including aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and flexibility) improved in women with breast cancer who did 12 weeks of tai chi, while declining in a control group that received only supportive therapy. Heart disease. A 53-person study at National Taiwan University found that a year of tai chi significantly boosted exercise capacity, lowered blood pressure, and improved levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, and C-reactive protein in people at high risk for heart disease. The study, which was published in the September 2008 Journal of Alternativeand Complementary Medicine, found no improvement in a control group that did not practice tai chi. Heart failure. In a 30-person pilot study at Harvard Medical School, 12 weeks of tai chi improved participants' ability to walk and quality of life. It also reduced blood levels of B-type natriuretic protein, an indicator of heart failure. A 150-patient controlled trial is under way. Hypertension. In a review of 26 studies in English or Chinese published in Preventive Cardiology (Spring 2008), Dr. Yeh reported that in 85% of trials, tai chi lowered blood pressure — with improvements ranging from 3 to 32 mm Hg in systolic pressure and from 2 to 18 mm Hg in diastolic pressure. Stroke. In 136 patients who'd had a stroke at least six months earlier, 12 weeks of tai chi improved standing balance more than a general exercise program that entailed breathing, stretching, and mobilizing muscles and joints involved in sitting and walking. Findings were published in the January 2009 issue of Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. 
Reference: Harvard Medical School, Women's Health Guide
Whitecrane Tai Chi (TM)

Tai Chi Improves Muscle Strength And Cardiovascular Health - See more at: http://www.amcollege.edu/acupuncture-massage-blog/tai-chi-improves-muscle-strength-and-cardiovascular-health/#sthash.PrQP4nOl.dpuf

Tai Chi Improves Muscle Strength And Cardiovascular Health - See more at: http://www.amcollege.edu/acupuncture-massage-blog/tai-chi-improves-muscle-strength-and-cardiovascular-health/#sthash.PrQP4nOl.dpuf

Tai Chi Improves Muscle Strength And Cardiovascular Health - See more at: http://www.amcollege.edu/acupuncture-massage-blog/tai-chi-improves-muscle-strength-and-cardiovascular-health/#sthash.PrQP4nOl.dpuf

Tai Chi Improves Muscle Strength And Cardiovascular Health - See more at: http://www.amcollege.edu/acupuncture-massage-blog/tai-chi-improves-muscle-strength-and-cardiovascular-health/#sthash.PrQP4nOl.dpuf

Tai Chi Improves Muscle Strength And Cardiovascular

Because tai chi can be practiced anytime, anywhere, and without the constraints of equipment or a gym, this traditional Chinese exercise could be a good exercise strategy for older adults, both for vascular health and for muscle strengthening. 

Experienced practitioners of tai chi have improved expansion and contraction of arteries (arterial compliance) and improved knee strength, according to a recent study. The findings of better muscle strength without jeopardizing arterial compliance suggest that tai chi may well be a suitable exercise for older people to improve both cardiovascular function and body strength. A number of studies, the researchers explain, have shown that strength training to improve muscle function and to offset the effects of aging has also been accompanied by a decline in arterial compliance. Arterial stiffness—when an artery fails to distend or rebound in response to pressure changes—is closely associated with cardiovascular diseases, possibly through elevated blood and pulse pressure and atherosclerosis. Arterial compliance has been identified as an important predictor of cardiovascular health in the elderly and as a therapeutic target for physical exercise in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Muscle strength.
In a 2006 study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Stanford University researchers reported benefits of tai chi in 39 women and men, average age 66, with below-average fitness and at least one cardiovascular risk factor. After taking 36 tai chi classes in 12 weeks, they showed improvement in both lower-body strength (measured by the number of times they could rise from a chair in 30 seconds) and upper-body strength (measured by their ability to do arm curls).

In a Japanese study using the same strength measures, 113 older adults were assigned to different 12-week exercise programs, including tai chi, brisk walking, and resistance training. People who did tai chi improved more than 30% in lower-body strength and 25% in arm strength — almost as much as those who participated in resistance training, and more than those assigned to brisk walking.

"Although you aren't working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in tai chi strengthens your upper body," says internist Dr. Gloria Yeh, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. "Tai chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen."

 Health benefits of tai chi:
  • Better Balance
  • Aerobic Conditioning
  • Improved Muscle Strenght
  • Increased Flexibility
References: Harvard Women's Health Watch