March 8, 2004 Practicing
the traditional Chinese martial art of tai chi appears to offer both mental & physical
benefits for people with chronic diseases, but researchers aren't exactly sure what those benefits are.
A new review of
studies on tai chi shows that the practice is safe & probably beneficial for older adults
w/conditions such as heart failure, high blood pressure, arthritis & multiple sclerosis. It may also offer psychological
benefits in reducing stress & anxiety in healthy people.
But researchers say
the lack of rigorous scientific studies on the subject makes it difficult to draw any firm conclusions about the long-term
risks or health benefits of practicing tai chi.
Tai chi combines
deep breathing & relaxation with postures that move smoothly from one to the other in slow, gentle movements.
it has been promoted for good health, memory concentration, digestion, balance & flexibility. It's also thought to improve
mental problems such as anxiety, depression & age-related declines in mental function.
its popularity, the biological mechanism & clinical effects of tai chi aren't well understood,
write researcher Chenchen Wang, MD, MSc, of Tufts-New England Medical Ctr. in Boston & colleagues.
Health Benefits of Tai
For the study,
published in the March 8 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed 47 English & Chinese
-language studies on the effects of tai chi in people with chronic health problems.
These studies reported
health benefits including improvements in balance & strength, cardiovascular & respiratory function, flexibility,
immune function & symptoms of arthritis.
in reducing stress & anxiety were also reported.
But only 9 of the studies
reviewed were randomized & controlled, which is the highest standard for scientific research, & all of them were short-term.
the long-term effects of tai chi practice are still unknown & there is insufficient
information to recommend Tai Chi to patients w/chronic conditions," conclude the researchers.