Special to the Village News
If you are looking for fun and gentle exercises that can improve your mental and physical health, Tai Chi could be the answer. This ancient art that has been practiced in China for centuries along with its companion art, Qigong, is known for its many physical and mental health benefits.
The flowing movements of these internal arts are designed to develop the life force to increase awareness, protection from attack and the power of kicks and punches, and to extend the life span. According to 2022 results of a Shanghai study of 60,000 men over a period of five years, those who practiced Tai Chi lived significantly longer than those who didn't.
Higher levels of immunity was likely a factor in the longevity of the Tai Chi participants in the Shanghai study. This is corroborated by a California study comparing two groups of subjects that both received a Shingles vaccine. The Tai Chi group's immunity level measured twice as high as the other group, which took a health education class.
Longevity, increased immunity, and other positive outcomes of Tai Chi practice are being studied by Dr. Parco Siu from the University of Hong Kong. He cites a recent study that compared the risk factors of heart disease between a group that did brisk walking and a group that did Tai Chi. The Tai Chi group was found to have a significant reduction in blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol compared to the walking group.
Dr. Siu ran his own study of cognitive flexibility in older adults that compared a group practicing Tai Chi with a group doing traditional aerobics and muscle strengthening exercises. Both groups practiced for three hours a week. There was an improvement in cognitive function in both groups, but the improvement appeared sooner in the Tai Chi group.
According to Dr. Siu: "We found that Tai Chi actually can induce greater and earlier improvements in global cognitive function and cognitive flexibility." Dr. Siu added that, "It seems to train up your brain as well. There has been evidence from brain imaging studies that suggests that your brain would adapt at both the structural and functional levels...Conventional exercise can change the brain a little bit but not to the extent of what we observe from Tai Chi training."
Tai Chi, often called "Meditation in Motion," is an elegant, yet easy-to-learn way to maintain and increase our health and longevity. As we practice to improve our physical body, we also work with our Chi or life force, to enhance our spiritual development and elevate the quality of our lives.
Inglis Carré is a Certified Tai Chi Practitioner, [email protected]