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Tai Chi, Qigong Good for Body, Mind

Studies Finds Tai Chi and Qigong Have Physical, Mental Health Benefits

By Kathleen Doheny
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

July 2, 2010 -- The ancient Chinese wellness practices known as tai chi and qigong provide many physical and mental health advantages, including helping the heart, immune system, and one's quality of life, according to a new analysis.

Linda Larkey, PhD, of Arizona State University, and her colleagues combed the medical literature, finding 77 published reports of scientific studies that looked at the two wellness practices and compared them to other exercises or to a sedentary state. The studies, published between 1993 and 2007, looked at tai chi and qigong and their effects on various outcomes, such as health, physical function, falls, quality of life, one's feeling of self-efficacy, immune system functioning, psychological symptoms, and other factors.

The 77 studies included 6,410 participants.

Both forms of activity incorporate a wide range of physical movements and slow, meditative, dance-like movements, Larkey writes. Both also include meditation postures and gentle or vigorous shaking of the body. They emphasize regulation of breath and mind coordinated with body regulation.

The new review, Larkey says in a news release, provides a "stronger evidence base" for the activities and their positive effects on bone health, cardio-respiratory fitness, physical functioning, balance, quality of life, fall prevention, and psychological health.

Although it was not possible to combine all the study results statistically and come up with a number describing the effect, the evidence of benefits is consistent, she says.

Exactly how do tai chi and qigong impart their benefits? "This combination of self-awareness with self-correction of the posture and movement of the body, the flow of breath, and mindfulness, are thought to comprise a state that activates the natural self-regulatory (self-healing) capacity," Larkey writes. That, in turn, helps trigger beneficial brain hormones and "a wide array of natural health recovery mechanisms."

The study is published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

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SOURCES: Jahnke, R. American Journal of Health Promotion, July/August 2010, vol 24.

News release, Health Behavior News Service.

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