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Tai Chi Promotes Heart Health: Study Says

A clinical study showed the effect of practicing Tai Chi for a better quality of life in people with heart diseases.


With the varying types of diseases and conditions that occur all over the world, the best way to prevent the acquiring of such is to live healthy – eating right, exercise and maintaining an active lifestyle. A well-balanced diet is not merely enough as our body also needs to keep moving to ensure healthy blood flow. The body needs regular exercise to work out the muscles and joints, improve endurance and prevent numerous diseases as well. However, not everyone will benefit equally from exercise. We should always be aware of one’s fitness level in order to identify the correct degree of exercise to be performed without straining the muscles.

When talking about exercise, the thing that first pops in our mind are weight training, cycling, running, hiking, swimming, gym trainings or vigorous exercises that produce a lot of sweat and energy. However, there is one specific exercise that won’t stress you out, but instead give you a relaxing feeling while absorbing the benefits it can give.

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi Chuan, can be translated to “Supreme Ultimate Force”, where ‘supreme ultimate’ is associated with the Chinese concept of yin-yang, a balance or dynamic duality in everything and ‘force’ is the way in achieving such yin-yang.  Tai Chi Chuan, or simply Tai Chi, is a slow, meditative exercise for health, relaxation and self-defense which originated from China, but is known all throughout America and all over the world for its health benefits.

To the Chinese, illnesses and sickness are all results of imbalances in the flow of chi or “life energy” in the body. This imbalance, as they say, is because of too much yin or yang therefore causing turbulence or delayed flow of blood and chi.

Many practitioners of Tai Chi do not only treat it as a meditative exercise for the body, but also puts importance on its combat aspects. It was treated as a potent art and was used by a few families for self defense. The proper positions for the transmission of energy or “chi” and the methods of single-weightiness, relaxation techniques and control of breath were formed for the purpose of succeeding in combat in a capable and scientific manner. A Tai Chi student must be able to appreciate this martial context because the four major Tai Chi Styles: Chen, Yang, Wu and Sun, places great emphasis in grasping the meaning of Tai Chi and its purposes being for meditative wellbeing and physical health as Tai Chi is also considered an exercise and sports regimen.

Tai Chi aims in developing a calm and tranquil mind, keeping focus in performing precise execution of these exercises. Learning Tai Chi in such a way would help one develop alignment, balance, fine-scale motor control, movement rhythm and many more.

Tai Chi has its origin from martial arts, therefore, it does have some martial arts applications. “Push Hands”, a two person exercise develops the principles of Tai Chi by being sensitive of another person’s “chi” or vital energy. With this, Tai Chi’s martial arts concepts are developed in a slow-tempo combat. However, long-time practitioners could become very skillful in martial arts. What Tai chi puts emphasis on is channeling potentially destructive energy away, in the form of kick or punch, in a way that would drive off the destructive energy in a direction with no danger.

Benefits of Tai Chi

Tai Chi is known to be a slow and gentle exercise unlike any other, but nonetheless, it gives one numerous health benefits for the body. First of all, it addresses the key components of fitness namely muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and aerobic conditioning. Some studies have also shown the possibility of practicing Tai Chi in reducing the fear of falling.

A good number of studies have proven that Tai Chi also benefits many health conditions when combined with standard treatment for medical problems such as arthritis, low bone density, breast cancer, heart diseases, heart failure, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, sleep problems and stroke.

The Study

Benefits of exercising, as most people see it, can only be acquired through vigorous workouts like weight lifting and the like. However, a clinical study from the April issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine in association with the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that Tai Chi, a Chinese practice, improves systolic heart rate, patient’s mood, quality of life, and self-efficacy.

In the United States, people who are not playing sports, weight lifting, and the like are acquiring a lot of health benefits from practicing Tai Chi, and they are often seen to be moving in a slow flowing motion, transitioning into different poses.

The study published reported the result of the clinical study at the Harvard Medical School in Boston and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. This study observed patients with heart failure taking a Tai Chi class twice a week.

This was done for three months. Later on, it was observed that the patients practicing Tai Chi increased in confidence in performing their everyday tasks and were also able to live their lifestyles more actively than those who took classes in health education. Results can also be compared to the benefits of Tai Chi for stroke.

Results from those who engaged in Tai Chi in previous studies were found to have lowered their blood pressure, improved bone density and immune system, even though these effects might also be acquired from performing thorough aerobic exercises.

This study is only limited to a lesser active form of Tai Chi, therefore not finding improvement in aerobic fitness, but a significant improvement in attitude and health of heart disease patients.

Dr. Gloria Y. Yeh, the study’s lead author, said that the real aim of this activity is to get patients to actively continue exercising.  She also said that adherence is one of the biggest advantages of any exercise regimen and with this, accessibility becomes Tai Chi’s most important component. For 12 weeks, more than three-fourths of the participants of the study continued practicing Tai Chi, and six months later, many were still practicing it.

Ways to promote a Healthy Heart

There are many ways to promote a healthy heart. First off is to follow a heart healthy diet by limiting intake of fats and hydrogenated oils, refined sugar intake from cakes and cookies, using extra virgin olive oil and garlic in cooking to lower cholesterol and adding omega 3 fatty acids in the diet. Regular exercise must also be followed by exercising 3-4 times a week, stretching before training and keeping one hydrated and resting between sets.

Leading a healthy lifestyle is also important by avoiding smoking and second hand smoke which are causes of heart disease, limiting alcohol intake, reducing stress and anxiety and keeping weight within limits.

Blood indicators in the development of heart disease must also be given attention. Watching out for high levels of cholesterol, triglyceride levels, homocysteine levels, and C-reactive Protein levels must be done for these are all potential risk factors in the development of heart diseases.


Sources

naturalnews.com
health.harvard.edu
patiencetaichi.com
chebucto.ns.ca
healthy-heart-guide.com

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