Tai Chi helps reduce the risk of falls in the elderly, and improves mental health, is what a new study shows. However, practicing the ancient Chinese art does not help to ease the symptoms of cancer or rheumatoid arthritis.
The information is from the research of a team that analyzed 35 reviews of studies evaluating the effects of Tai Chi on health.
The databases reviewed were British, Chinese and Korean that assessed the impact of Tai Chi on various diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, cancer, osteoarthritis, Parkinson's, musculoskeletal pain, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
Some reviews also examined the effects of Tai Chi on mental health, balance and preventing falls, muscle strength and aerobic capacity.
The results on the effects of Tai Chi were contradictory on several conditions, but were found effective in preventing falls and improving mental health. The findings were revealed this month in a preview of the print publication of the journal British Journal of Sports Medicine.
"Our overall assessment has shown that Tai Chi, which combines deep breathing and slow and gentle relaxation movements, can have an overall benefit in preventing falls and improving balance in older people. It also offers some meditative effects for the improvement of psychological health," the study authors wrote.
"We recommend Tai Chi for the elderly for its many physical and psychological benefits even though it may not treat inflammatory and cardio-respiratory problems," they concluded.
The basic underlying philosophy of Tai Chi is that balance is everything. By involving the entire body with little to no impact, Tai Chi promotes strength, flexibility and stamina. The entire body is being taught to move as a whole, Tai Chi cultivates the link between the mind and the body, helping to enhance one's coordination and balance. It can also help with the joints as well, especially if an individual is very stiff in the joints. Tai Chi was recently recognized as a successful treatment for fibromyalgia.
Go into any park in China in the morning, and scores of elderly persons performing Tai Chi can be seen.
With elderly residents, Tai Chi involves small, slow, controlled motions. With beginners, some time at first working while seated is best, bringing attention to the proper alignment of the pelvis, chest and head. Once that is accomplished, finding strength and balance while standing is much easier.
Even while standing, many residents can begin work standing just behind a chair. The presence of the chair back within reach gives them a sense of security and confidence. They can forget about the possibility of falling and concentrate on the movements. After that, they may or may not perform the movements independently.
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