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Tai Chi is a series of dance-like movements that are
designed to gather qi, or life energy, focus the mind, relax the body, and move qi and blood. Tai Chi focuses on deep, mindful breathing, and also uses cognitive tools such as visualization and internal awareness. The slow movements of Tai Chi provide a gentle framework for enhancing physical control and improving balance.
It is beneficial especially for the joints, muscles, and the lumbar spine. In the US, it is gaining widespread use as a method of improving balance and preventing falls among seniors. Tai Chi is also advertised to improve overall health and enhance immunity. It is being studied for its potential for increasing bone density, which is important for menopausal and postmenopausal women as the hormonal changes associated with this life transition can cause frailty and osteoporosis.
Research Evidence on Tai Chi
One study measured the severity of menopause symptoms and bone density in a group of 12 menopausal women. They did 31 one-hour sessions over 16 weeks.
Tai Chi was found to have the following effects:
- Abdominal distension, fatigue, and hot flashes and night sweats were all relieved significantly.
- Increased bone density in menopausal women.
- Instead of decreasing deterioration of bone, it was actually found to increase the formation of new bone.4
A meta-analysis of studies on tai chi and bone mineral density (BMD) in postmenopausal women found the following:
- There was a significantly greater BMD in lumbar spine and some regions of femur in Tai Chi group vs control.
- Greater quad strength and balance in Tai Chi group vs control.2
- BMD significantly greater in the L1 through L4 vertebrae and femur for Tai Chi vs control.
- Bone density in participants with 5–10 years of experience with tai chi was not different from those with 10+ years. 1
- There was a reduced rate of tibial bone loss in the Tai Chi groups. 3
1Gong M. et al. “Effects of long-term shadowboxing exercise on bone mineral density in the aged,” Chinese Journal of Clinical Rehabilitation, no. 7 (2003): 2238–2239.
2Qin L et al. “Beneficial effects of regular Tai Chi exercise on musculoskeletal system.” Journal of Bone Mineral Metabolism, no. 23 (2005):186–190.
3Wayne, Peter M. et al. “The Effects of Tai Chi on Bone Mineral Density in Postmenopausal Women: A Systematic Review,” Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 5, no. 88 (2007): 673-680, May 2007.
4Xu, Hong et al. “A study on Tai Ji exercise and traditional Chinese medical modalities in relation to bone structure, bone function and menopausal symptoms,” Journal of Chinese Medicine, no. 74 (2004) : 10-14.
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