Tai Chi, as an excellent way of keeping fit, originates from ancient Chinese arts of health preservation.
Ancient methods of maintaining health may be divided into two main categories: static and dynamic, the distinction being whether or not physical movements are involved.
As a form of wushu, tai chi assimilates the essence of both the static and dynamic exercises. Combining the features of ancient static and dynamic exercises, the tai chi movements are slow and gentle, without exerting force to the utmost, the purpose being to activate the organism, to promote the circulation of qi and blood, and to achieve harmony between yin and yang, mental equilibrium and spiritual peace.
Researchers have found that intensive tai chi practice shows some favorable effects on the promotion of balance control, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, and has shown to reduce the risk of falls in both healthy elderly patients, and those recovering from chronic stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attacks, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and fibromyalgia,. Tai chi’s gentle, low impact movements burn more calories than surfing and nearly as many as downhill skiing.
A study also found that tai chi (compared to regular stretching) showed the ability to greatly reduce pain and improve overall physical and mental health in people over 60 with severe osteoarthritis of the knee. In addition, in a randomized trial of 66 patients with fibromyalgia, the tai chi intervention group did significantly better in terms of pain, fatigue, sleeplessness and depression than a comparable group given stretching exercises and wellness education.
Stress and mental health
A systematic review and meta-analysis, funded in part by the U.S. government, of the studies on the effects of practicing t’ai chi found that, “Twenty-one of 33 randomized and nonrandomized trials reported that 1 hour to 1 year of regular tai chi significantly increased psychological well-being including reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression, and enhanced mood in community-dwelling healthy participants and in patients with chronic conditions. Seven observational studies with relatively large sample sizes reinforced the beneficial association between t’ai chi practice and psychological health.”
There have also been indications that tai chi might have some effect on noradrenaline and cortisol production with an effect on mood and heart rate. In one study, t’ai chi has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in 13 adolescents. The improvement in symptoms seems to persist after the t’ai chi sessions were terminated.
As a development of ancient static and dynamic exercises, tai chi has become a unique health-oriented system in its own right. It is a valuable asset belonging not only to the Chinese people; with its value gaining wider and wider appreciation; it will benefit more and more people in the rest of the world.
by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com
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