A study published in the journal Cell Transplantation demonstrated the benefits of Tai Chi in terms of aging and in fibromyalgia patients. The study is entitled “Tai Chi Intervention Increases Progenitor CD34+ Cells in Young Adults” and was conducted by a collaborative team of researchers at different universities and hospitals in Taiwan.
Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese martial art that offers defense training but also health benefits. It is sometimes referred to as “moving meditation” because practitioners move their bodies slowly, gently, while breathing deeply. Although Tai Chi is considered a healthy practice worldwide, few efforts have been made to exploit the impact of Tai Chi on lifespan.
Researchers have now conducted a retrospective cross-sectional study with the goal of comparing the anti-aging effects of different practices in 32 participants divided into three groups: a group that practiced Tai Chi (10 participants), a group that practiced brisk walking (10 participants), and a group with no exercise habit (12 participants).
“To evaluate the potential life-lengthening effect of Tai Chi, we conducted a year-long, retrospective cross-sectional study comparing the rejuvenating and anti-aging effects among three groups of volunteers under the age of 25 who engaged in either Tai Chi (TCC), brisk walking (BW), or no exercise habit (NEH),” explained in a news release one of the study’s senior authors, Dr. Shinn-Zong Lin from China Medical University Hospital. “We used young volunteers because they have better cell-renewing abilities than the old population and we also wanted to avoid having chronic diseases and medications as interfering factors.”
The team assessed the CD34+ cell counts in peripheral blood of the participants. CD34+ cells correspond to an important cell type related to hematopoietic stem cells (blood stem cells), which are involved in cell self-renewal, proliferation and differentiation.
Researchers found that participants in the TCC group had a higher number of CD34+ progenitor cells in comparison to participants in the NEH group, while they had no significant difference when compared to the BW group.
The research team concluded that Tai Chi practice has an anti-aging effect due to the improvement it induces in CD34+ cell numbers. The authors also suggest that Tai Chi can offer a beneficial effect on patients with fibromyalgia, a medical disorder that can compromise the patient’s quality of life as they experience widespread chronic musculoskeletal pain, incapacitating fatigue, stiffness and numbness in certain parts of the body, painful response to pressure, headaches, poor sleep quality, anxiety and depression. The team suggests that Tai Chi may be valuable in reducing pain and stress, prevent falls and improve balance, blood pressure, aerobic capacity and quality of life.
“It is possible that Tai Chi may prompt vasodilation and increase blood flow,” said Dr. Lin. “Considering that BW may require a larger space or more equipment, Tai Chi seems to be an easier and more convenient choice of anti-aging exercise.”
“This study provides the first step into providing scientific evidence for the possible health benefits of Tai Chi,” concluded Dr. Paul R. Sanberg, a distinguished professor at the Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair, University of South Florida. “Further study of how Tai Chi can elicit benefit in different populations and on different parameters of aging are necessary to determine its full impact.”
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