Notes by Master Chong

on the articles "Taiji (Tai Chi) Improves Knee Strength and Force Control in the Elderly" and "Tai Chi Bolsters Shingles Immunity"

Below is a brief account on two recent researches on how Tai Chi affects balance in elderly and human immune system.

Dr. Rosengren's research has confirmed that Taijiquan could improve the knee strength. However, to my experience, many taijiquan practitioners did not practise the art correctly. This has caused injuries to their knees instead of improved their knee strength.

Taijiquan training is based on the natural and physical movemens of the human body. Thus, we must understand the structure of our bones and joints and use the correct force during the taijiquan movement. The hand movements are based on the martial art postures to get the balancing.

Taijiquan is based on the philosophy of 'yin' and 'yang'. It is also related to the five elements (wu xing). Proper relaxation and meditation could lead the 'qi' flows all over the body to building up our strength and improving our health. Prof. Irwin's research indicates that taijiquan could increase immunity to virus infection. 


Taiji (Tai Chi) Improves Knee Strength and Force Control in the Elderly

A DG Review of "Raid communication . Taiji training improves knee extensor strength and force control in older adults" Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 09/02/2003

By Deanna M Green, PhD

Elderly patients practising Taiji (Tai Chi) for 20 weeks experienced significant improvements in knee extensor strength and force control, according to a recent American study.

Older individuals have an increased risk of slipping, tripping and falling, which can cause serious injury or death. The ancient Chinese martial art Taiji, more commonly known as Tai Chi in the United States, has been shown to improve balance, coordination, and aerobic capacity, particularly in the elderly. Furthermore, studies have determined that Taiji can decrease the frequency of falls in the elderly and reduce their fear of falling.

Given its slow, gentle, non-aerobic movements, this form of exercise may be an ideal therapeutic option for older persons.

Karl S. Rosengren, Phi, and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States, analysed the effects of Taiji training on knee extensor strength and force control in healthy elderly patients.

The study included 26 healthy individuals (average age 72 years old), 16 of which received Taiji training for 20 weeks and 10 that did not receive Taiji training and served as a control group. Knee extensor strength was measured with an isokinetic dynamometer from the maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVC). Force control was determined from the variation of force during constant isometric knee extension at 2%, 30%, 60%, and 90% MVC.

Overall, participants undergoing Taiji training showed increased improvement in knee extensor strength and force control after 20 weeks. More specifically, a 20% higher MVC and a 19% lower variation of force were observed in this group after training.

Further analysis revealed that the improvement in force control was primarily due to decreases in the standard deviation of force and not due to increases in strength. This result indicates that the improvement in force control was independent of improvements in strength.

Measurements of strength and force control did not differ between tests in the control group, demonstrating a direct effect of Taiji training on knee extensor strength and force control.

Dr. Rosengren concludes from this study that "older individuals can become stronger and have a better force control with the knee extensors following Taiji training." He further suggests that "intervention programs that use Taiji should be at least four months long for individuals to achieve a moderate level of Taiji skill." 


Tai Chi Bolsters Shingles Immunity 

By William Whitney - Publication date: September 23, 2003 

A recent study of elderly adults who practised Tai Chi finds the martial art increased immunity to shingles, a painful rash related to chicken pox.

Chickenpox attacks are caused by the varicella zoster virus. Children who get the disease generally recover quickly, but the body doesn't completely get rid of the virus - it remains dormant in the nerve tissue of the body. With age, the weakening immune system may allow the virus to re-emerge as shingles: a painful rash that causes pain lasting for months of years.

To find out if the virus might be held in check through a regular program of meditative exercise, Michael Irwin a professor at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute conducted a comparative study. He asked half of a group of 36 elderly adults to follow a 15-week program of Tai Chi Chih, a westernised version of the 3,000-year-old martial art Tai Chi Chuan. A week after the program was complete, Irwin measured the subjects' immune response to the shingles virus. As compared to the group who hadn't been exercising, this half of the study showed an average 50 percent increase in the immune cells. This helps control shingles and other diseases as well.

The Tai Chi students' overall health improved. Adults who suffered from physical impairments, such as a limp, showed the greatest improvement.

Although the study focused only on the shingles virus, Irwin expects similar results for other diseases. "I would expect to see changes across a whole host of responses for a whole host of various viral infections," he says.

Tai Chi Chih is a standardized series of 20 movements developed for older adults. It combines meditation, relaxation and components of aerobic exercise. It is easy to learn, and can be taught from a manual.

The report appeared in the September issue of Psychosomatic Medicine. Irwin plans a follow-up study to examine the duration of the increased immune response, and to investigate how Tai Chi actually improves health.


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