Boosts Immune System In Older Adults by Ancient Martial Art Tai Chi
By Live Dr - Sat Mar 28, 1:52 pm
Stroke Survivors Improve Balance With
ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2009) — Stroke can impair balance, heightening the risk of a debilitating fall. But a University of Illinois at Chicago researcher has found that stroke survivors can improve their balance by practicing the Chinese martial art of tai chi
Christina Hui-Chan, professor and head of physical therapy at UIC, has studied and used tai chi as a way to improve balance and minimize falls among healthy elderly subjects. Now she and a colleague have seen similar results in a group of stroke survivors.
The study used 136 subjects in Hong Kong who had suffered a stroke more than six months earlier. Participants were randomly assigned to a tai chi group or a control group that practiced breathing, stretching and other exercises that involved sitting, walking, memorizing and reasoning.
Tai chi consists of constant coordinated movement of the head, trunk and limbs requiring tremendous concentration and balance control. Participants learned a simplified form that had been shown to be beneficial to arthritis patients.
Patients were trained in small groups by physical therapists in a weekly class, then practiced at home three days a week for one hour. They received 12 weeks of training but were able to learn the technique in as little as eight. The goal was to make the patients as independent in their treatment as possible, Hui-Chan said.
They were then tested for their ability to maintain balance while shifting weight, leaning in different directions, and standing on moving surfaces to simulate a crowded bus. In these tests the tai chi group out-performed the control exercise group. The two groups performed about the same on another test, which was not focused solely on balance but involved sitting, standing, walking, and returning to sit down.
“The tai chi group did particularly better in conditions that required them to use their balance control,” Hui-Chan said. “In only six weeks, we saw significant improvements. The ability to shift your weight is very important because all reaching tasks require it.”
While learning tai chi is not easy, Hui-Chan has found that most people can learn the art if taught by a trained instructor. Many Chinese practice tai chi in morning group exercises, and Hui-Chan thinks the experience can work for Americans and other western nationalities.
“It can be taught at community centers, YWCAs or YMCAs, or in parks in the summer,” she said.
Hui-Chan said that benefits of tai chi include improved strength and cardio fitness. Group classes also provide a healthy social gathering for isolated seniors at a fraction the cost of physiotherapy or personal training.
Hui-Chan conducted the research with former doctoral student Stephanie Au-Yeung while at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The findings, now accessible online, will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair.
Tai Chi Can Reduce Falls In Older People, Says New
ScienceDaily (June 28, 2005) — Older people who took part in a structured programme of Tai Chi found that their balance and physical strength improved, reducing the risk of falls, according to a paper in the latest Journal of Advanced Nursing.
Researchers studied a group of fall-prone adults, with an average age of 78, living in residential care. 29 undertook a 12-week Tai Chi course three times a week and 30 formed the non-exercise control group.
They found that the physical fitness of the exercise group showed significant improvement, with stronger knee and ankle muscles, improved mobility and flexibility and better balance.
For example, after the exercise programme had finished, the time taken by the exercise group to walk six metres had fallen by 25 per cent, while the control group took 14 per cent longer.
“As people get older they are more likely to experience falls and this can lead to some very serious health issues” says co-author Professor Rhayun Song from the Chung Nam National University in South Korea.
“Figures published in the United States estimate that 30 per cent of people over 65 living in the community fall each year and this rises to up to 50 per cent for people in long-term care facilities, such as residential homes. One in ten falls results in a fracture.
“Regular exercise is very important as we get older because when we get to 65 we start losing muscle strength at a rate of up to two per cent per year.”
Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese martial art consisting of a series of slow, gentle, continuous movements, is particularly suitable for older people as it helps them to develop stronger muscles and better balance and concentration.
The exercise programme used in the research consisted of 10 minutes of warming up exercises, 20 minutes of Sun-style Tai Chi movement and five minutes of cooling down exercises. Traditional instrumental music was used to help the group maintain slow and continuous movements and provide a soothing effect.
Both groups underwent a series of tests before the 12-week exercise programme and once it had been completed. This measured their muscle strength, balance and confidence in avoiding falls.
Participants were also asked to report any falls they experienced during the test period. 31 per cent of the exercise group said they had had a fall, compared with 50 per cent of the control group.
In the year before the research started, 66 per cent of the exercise group had reported a fall, together with 57 per cent of the control group.
“Our study shows that low-intensity exercise such as Tai Chi has great potential for health promotion as it can help older people to avoid falls by developing their balance, muscle strength and confidence” says Professor Song.
“We believe that regular exercise should be a fundamental part of caring for older people living in the community and in residential care.”
Notes to editors
Elderly’s Restless Nights Helped By Ancient Martial
ScienceDaily (June 21, 2008) — More than half of all older adults complain about having difficulties sleeping. Most don’t bother seeking treatment. Those who do usually turn either to medications, which can lead to other health problems, or behavior therapies, which are costly and often not available close to home.
Now, UCLA researchers report that practicing tai chi chih, the Westernized version of a 2,000-year-old Chinese martial art, promotes sleep quality in older adults with moderate sleep complaints. The study, which will be published in the journal Sleep, is currently available in the journal’s online edition.
In the study, 112 healthy adults ranging in age from 59 to 86 were randomly assigned to one of two groups for a 25-week period: The first group practiced 20 simple tai chi chih moves; the other participated in health education classes that included advice on stress management, diet and sleep habits.
At the beginning of the study, participants were asked to rate their sleep based on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, a self-rated questionnaire that assesses sleep quality, duration and disturbances over a one-month time interval.
The study found that the tai chi chih group showed improved sleep quality and a remission of clinical impairments, such as drowsiness during the day and inability to concentrate, compared with those receiving health education. The tai chi chih participants showed improvements in their own self-rating of sleep quality, sleep duration and sleep disturbance.
“Poor sleeping constitutes one of the most common difficulties facing older adults,” said lead study author Dr. Michael Irwin, the Norman Cousins Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology.
Irwin noted that 58 percent of adults age 59 and older report having difficulty sleeping at least a few nights each week. However, sleep problems remain untreated in up to 85 percent of people. And for those who do seek help, the usual remedy is a sedative.
But sedatives can cause side effects, according to Irwin.
“It’s not uncommon for older adults to experience daytime confusion, drowsiness, falls and fractures, and adverse interactions with other medications they may be taking,” he said.
And while most health professionals generally agree that physical exercise enhances sleep quality, given the physical limitations of the elderly, rigorous exercise might not be an option. That’s why tai chi chih, with its gentle, slow movements, is an attractive exercise option for the elderly population.
“It’s a form of exercise virtually every elderly person can do, and this study provides more across-the-board evidence of its health benefits,” Irwin said.
The research piggybacked on a study published in April 2007 by Irwin that showed tai chi chih boosted the immune system of elderly people suffering from shingles.
Other studies done at UCLA have shown that tai chi chih can help people who suffer from tension headaches and have suggested that it may aid in decreasing high blood pressure.
Practicing Tai Chi Boosts Immune System In Older
ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2007) — Tai chi chih, the Westernized version of the 2,000-year-old Chinese martial art characterized by slow movement and meditation, significantly boosts the immune systems of older adults against the virus that leads to the painful, blistery rash known as shingles, according to a new UCLA study.
The 25-week study, which involved a group of 112 adults ranging in age from 59 to 86, showed that practicing tai chi chih alone boosted immunity to a level comparable to having received the standard vaccine against the shingles-causing varicella zoster virus. When tai chi chih was combined with the vaccine, immunity reached a level normally seen in middle age. The report appears in the April issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, currently online.
The results, said lead author Michael Irwin, the Norman Cousins Professor of Psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, confirm a positive, virus-specific immune response to a behavioral intervention. The findings demonstrate that tai chi chih can produce a clinically relevant boost in shingles immunity and add to the benefit of the shingles vaccine in older adults.
“These are exciting findings, because the positive results of this study also have implications for other infectious diseases, like influenza and pneumonia,” said Irwin, who is also director of the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology. “Since older adults often show blunted protective responses to vaccines, this study suggests that tai chi is an approach that might complement and augment the efficacy of other vaccines, such as influenza.”
The study divided individuals into two groups. Half took tai chi chih classes three times a week for 16 weeks, while the other half attended health education classes — including advice on stress management, diet and sleep habits — for the same amount of time and did not practice tai chi chih. After 16 weeks, both groups received a dose of the shingles vaccine Varivax. At the end of the 25-week period, the tai chi chih group achieved a level of immunity two times greater than the health education group. The tai chi chih group also showed significant improvements in physical functioning, vitality, mental health and reduction of bodily pain.
The research follows the success of an earlier pilot study that showed a positive immune response from tai chi chih but did not assess its effects when combined with the vaccine.
The varicella zoster virus is the cause of chickenpox in kids. Children who get chickenpox generally recover, but the virus lives on in the body, remaining dormant. As we age, Irwin said, our weakening immune systems may allow the virus to reemerge as shingles. Approximately one-third of adults over 60 will acquire the infection at some point.
“It can be quite painful,” Irwin said, “and can result in impairment to a person’s quality of life that is comparable to people with congestive heart failure, type II diabetes or major depression.”
Tai chi chih is a nonmartial form of tai chi and comprises a standardized series of 20 movements. It combines meditation, relaxation and components of aerobic exercise and is easy to learn.
The study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Aging and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Tai Chi Program Helps Prevent Falls Among Older
ScienceDaily (Aug. 13, 2008) — It is not easy to translate research into practice, and a therapy that works well in the sterile research lab is not always successful in the real world. Researchers across the country are driven not only to discover new treatments but also to make sure their treatments are designed to be used successfully in a variety of community settings.
In the July issue of the American Journal of Public Health, Oregon Research Institute (ORI) senior scientist Fuzhong Li, Ph.D., describes how senior community centers in Lane County, Oregon successfully adopted an evidence-based Tai Chi program to prevent falls among older adults. Based on this success, the Oregon Department of Human Services, in partnership with 4 counties in Oregon, has now adopted the Tai Chi program as part of its efforts to disseminate evidence-based interventions to promote physical activity and reduce falls among community-living older adults.
“Our results are very important from a public health perspective,” says Li. “The U.S. population is aging rapidly and falls are a leading cause of mortality and morbidity among adults age 65 and older. Falls are associated with an enormous burden to individuals, society, and to the health care system. Tai Chi, as a proven fall intervention, may have much to offer in terms of reducing the public health burden of falls and the benefits accrued for prevention.”
The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine how well the exercise program translated into positive results when taught in community centers by lay people. There is wide recognition within public health that proven programs must be translated, implemented and adopted to have widespread effects. In previously-funded research, the Tai Chi program developed by Li and his team showed positive results in improving balance and reducing falls among the elderly.
Twice-weekly 1-hour classes were held in local senior centers in for 12 weeks. Trained tai chi instructors delivered the program. Li and his team assessed several factors including how many centers adopted the program, whether teachers and staff were successful in implementing key elements of the program, and whether participants in the tai chi sessions experienced healthy benefits. Also of critical importance is whether the community center was willing to consider tai chi as part of its regular programs, and the extent to which participants continued their tai chi practice once the 12 weeks were over.
Results indicated that the all centers invited agreed to participate and all participating centers successfully implemented the program. Program participants showed significant improvements in health-related outcome measures such as balance, reduction in falls, and increased functional independence. Tai chi has been considered a low-cost exercise activity because no equipment and few facilities are needed. These results indicate that an evidence-based tai chi program can be implemented in urban and rural community settings.
Tai Chi Chih Boosts Shingles Immunity In Older
ScienceDaily (Sep. 22, 2003) — Fifteen weeks of tai chi chih practice may have helped a small group of older adults increase the levels of immune cells that help protect their body against the shingles virus, according to a new study.
The report in the September issue of Psychosomatic Medicine is the first study to show that a behavioral intervention can influence the virus-specific immune response, say Michael R. Irwin, M.D., of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the University of Los Angeles, California and colleagues.
On average, the 18 adults who participated in the tai chi chih program had an increase of nearly 50 percent in immune cell levels one week after completing the program, although individual responses to the exercises varied substantially in this group.
Tai chi chih participants were significantly more likely to increase their immunity than those who did not participate in the program, however.
Tai chi chih practice was also associated with improvements in physical functioning, especially among those who had the most problems with everyday tasks like walking and climbing stairs at the beginning of the study..
Among those participants, tai chi chih’s benefits were “comparable or exceeded that reported for hip replacement surgery or for heart valve replacement in older adults,” say the researchers.
“However, in light of the small sample, these findings should be cautiously interpreted and viewed as preliminary in nature,” Irwin says.
Thirty-six adults, ages 60 and older and living in La Jolla or San Diego, participated in the study. All had either a history of chickenpox or had lived in the United States long enough to assume that they had been exposed to the chickenpox virus, which is similar to the shingles virus.
Exposure spurs the function of immune cells that “remember” the virus and rally the body against reinfection. However, this specific immunity weakens as people age, which may be why older people have higher rates and more severe cases of shingles, Irwin says.
The researchers randomly assigned the adults to tai chi chih instruction or to a waiting list. Those who received the tai chi chih training learned the standard series of 20 “meditation through movement” exercises from an instructor with 20 years’ experience. Irwin and colleagues monitored immune levels by through a series of blood tests.
The researchers say that further work is needed to discover whether the effects of tai chi chih on specific immunity are long-lasting, and whether tai chi chih might be useful in boosting the immune response to other infectious diseases.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.