Qigong (Chi Kung 氣功) & Tai Chi in Media

Tai chi & Chi Kung

Friday, April 6, 2007

Tai Chi Boosts Immunity to Shingles Virus in Older Adults, NIH-Sponsored Study Reports

Tai Chi, a traditional Chinese form of exercise, may help older adults avoid getting shingles by increasing immunity to varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and boosting the immune response to varicella vaccine in older adults, according to a new study published in print this week in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. This National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study is the first rigorous clinical trial to suggest that a behavioral intervention, alone or in combination with a vaccine, can help protect older adults from VZV, which causes both chickenpox and shingles.

The research was supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), both components of NIH. The study’s print publication follows its online release in March. The research was conducted by Michael R. Irwin, M.D., and Richard Olmstead, Ph.D., of the University of California at Los Angeles, and Michael N. Oxman, M.D., of the University of California at San Diego and San Diego Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.

"One in five people who have had chickenpox will get shingles later in life, usually after age 50, and the risk increases as people get older," says NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. "More research is needed, but this study suggests that the Tai Chi intervention tested, in combination with immunization, may enhance protection of older adults from this painful condition."

"Dr. Irwin’s research team has demonstrated that a centuries-old behavioral intervention, Tai Chi, resulted in a level of immune response similar to that of a modern biological intervention, the varicella vaccine, and that Tai Chi boosted the positive effects of the vaccine," says Andrew Monjan, Ph.D., chief of the NIA’s Neurobiology of Aging Branch.

The randomized, controlled clinical trial included 112 healthy adults ages 59 to 86 (average age of 70). Each person took part in a 16-week program of either Tai Chi or a health education program that provided 120 minutes of instruction weekly. Tai Chi combines aerobic activity, relaxation and meditation, which the researchers note have been reported to boost immune responses. The health education intervention involved classes about a variety of health-related topics.

After the 16-week Tai Chi and health education programs, with periodic blood tests to determine levels of VZV immunity, people in both groups received a single injection of VARIVAX, the chickenpox vaccine that was approved for use in the United States in 1995. Nine weeks later, the investigators did blood tests to assess each participant’s level of VZV immunity, comparing it to immunity at the start of the study. All of the participants had had chickenpox earlier in life and so were already immune to that disease.

Tai Chi alone was found to increase participants’ immunity to varicella as much as the vaccine typically produces in 30- to 40-year-old adults, and Tai Chi combined with the vaccine produced a significantly higher level of immunity, about a 40 percent increase, over that produced by the vaccine alone. The study further showed that the Tai Chi group’s rate of increase in immunity over the course of the 25-week study was double that of the health education (control) group. The Tai Chi and health education groups’ VZV immunity had been similar when the study began.

In addition, the Tai Chi group reported significant improvements in physical functioning, bodily pain, vitality and mental health. Both groups showed significant declines in the severity of depressive symptoms.

"This study builds upon preliminary research funded by NCCAM, and we are delighted to see this rigorous trial of Tai Chi for varicella zoster immunity come to fruition," said Ruth L. Kirschstein, M.D., NCCAM Acting Director. Shingles, or herpes zoster, affects the nerves, resulting in pain and blisters in adults. Following a case of chickenpox, a person’s nerve cells can harbor the varicella-zoster virus. Years later, the virus can reactivate and lead to shingles.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.


How Does Tai Chi Work for Arthritis?
By: Dr Paul Lam

There is irrefutable evidence that exercise benefits for most aspects of health. Exercise is an essential part of therapeutic approach for arthritis. Pain and stiffness of the joints tend to discourage patients from exercising. However without exercise, joints can become even more stiff and painful. This happens because exercise actually keeps bones, muscles, and joints healthy.

It is important to keep muscles as strong as possible because the stronger the muscles and tissues around joints are, the better they will be able to support and protect those joints. If people do not exercise, their muscles become weaker, and their bones can become osteoporotic. Exercise pumps blood and body fluid through to the muscles, tendons and the joints, which will facilitate healing.

Studies after studies have shown the right exercises to relieve pain and improve quality of life for people with arthritis (reference 1)

A study of the Tai Chi for Arthritis (details below) program was published by the Journal of Rheumatology (Sept 2003) has shown the Program to be effective and safe. A group of women with osteoarthritis (OA) did tai chi for 12 weeks were compared to a control group, who received only standard treatment. The tai chi group reported 30% less pain and 30% improvement in their abilities to carry out their daily activities, as well as improved balance. (reference 18).

In April 2007 the largest study of tai chi for arthritis published on the Arthritis Care and Research Journal has shown the Tai Chi for Arthritis program to be effective for arthritis (reference 19)



Tai Chi Helps Improve Diabetes

Tai Chi exercises can help people with type 2 diabetes control their condition, research suggests.

Two separate studies found a 12-week programme of exercise was enough to boost the immune system, and to cut blood sugar levels.

The traditional Chinese martial art combines deep breathing and gentle movement to boost relaxation levels.

Both studies, by researchers in Taiwan and Australia, appear in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Around 1.8 million people in the UK have type 2 diabetes and another 750,000 are thought to be undiagnosed.

The first study, by a team in Taiwan, compared 30 people with diabetes with 30 healthy people acting as controls.

Over 12 weeks the participants learned 37 Tai Chi movements under the guidance of an expert, and took home a video to study the correct poses.

They took part in three hour-long sessions a week.

At the end of the programme, tests on the group with type 2 diabetes showed a drop in their blood sugar levels, and a boost in the level of cells and chemicals key to a healthy immune response.

Strenuous physical activity is known to depress the immune system, but the latest study suggests that more moderate exercise may have the opposite effect.

Other effects

Previous research has suggested Tai Chi boosts cardiovascular and respiratory function, as well as improving flexibility and relieving stress.

The researchers said that if Tai Chi improves the way the body breaks down sugar, it could have a beneficial impact on the immune system, which is sparked into excessive activity by the presence of high levels of sugar in the blood.

Alternatively, the exercise may simply boost the immune system by raising fitness levels, and engendering a feeling of wellbeing.

The second study by the University of Queensland, based on just 11 participants, produced similar results.

In this study the participants - who all had raised blood sugar levels - attended sessions of Tai Chi, and another similar martial art, Qigong, for 60 to 90 minutes three times a week.

As well as a drop in blood sugar levels, the participants lost weight, and recorded significant falls in blood pressure. Insulin resistance was also improved.

Participants also said they slept better, had more energy, felt less pain and had fewer food cravings while on the programme.

Cathy Moulton, of the charity Diabetes UK, said moderate exercise had been shown to have a beneficial impact on type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes UK recommends that people with diabetes do a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on at least five days of the week.

Ms Moulton said: "Any activity that leaves you feeling warm and slightly breathless but still able to hold a conversation counts as moderate exercise - including vigorously cleaning the house, briskly walking the dog and of course Tai Chi.

"In addition to the importance of moderate physical activity, the relaxation element of Tai Chi may help to reduce stress levels, preventing the release of adrenalin which can lead to insulin resistance and high blood glucose levels."



Tai Chi Improves Body and Mind

Tai Chi has been used in China for centuries.

The ancient Chinese martial art of Tai Chi can help to improve people's health, research suggests.

Doctors in the United States analysed 47 studies looking at the impact Tai Chi had on people with chronic health problems, like heart disease or MS.

They found that it could improve balance control, flexibility and even the health of their heart.

Writing in The Archives of Internal Medicine, they said it also reduced stress, falls, pain and anxiety.

Deep breathing

Tai Chi originated in China where it has been used for hundreds of years.

It combines deep breathing with relaxation and postures that flow from one to another through slow movements.

The health aspects of Tai Chi are well documented Bob Weatherall, British Council of Chinese Martial Arts.

Practitioners say it can have a positive effect on people's health, improving memory, concentration, digestion, balance and flexibility.

They say it is also helpful for people with psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety or stress.

This latest study by doctors at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston suggests there is medical evidence to back up those claims.

Their findings are based on a review of studies published in English and Chinese.

"Overall, these studies reported that long-term Tai Chi practice had favourable effects on the promotion of balance control, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness and reduced the risk of falls in elders," the researchers said.

They said the martial art helped to reduce "pain, stress and anxiety in healthy subjects".

But it also had benefits for people with serious conditions, such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

"Benefits were reported by the authors of these studies in cardiovascular and respiratory function in healthy subjects and in patients who had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery as well as in patients with heart failure, hypertension, acute myocardial infarction, arthritis and multiple sclerosis."

"Well documented"

Bob Weatherall, secretary of the British Council of Chinese Martial Arts, welcomed the findings.

"The health aspects of Tai Chi are well documented," he told BBC News Online.

"It is used extensively in hospitals in China to improve the health of patients. Hospitals in England have started using it too.

"Tai Chi is all about breathing and posture. It's about getting the mind and body to work together. Some people call it moving meditation.

"Most people practice it for its health benefits and for stress relief."