5-Minute Health Tip: Tai Chi: The Anti-Aging Exercise

The traditional martial art and sport of tai chi has been praised for its many health benefits. Studies have shown that this low-impact exercise helps manage symptoms and improve quality of life for those suffering from:

  • Low bone density
  • Breast cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Heart failure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease

Tai chi activates all components of fitness—muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and aerobic conditioning. A recent study published in the international journal Cell Transplantation demonstrates tai chi’s remarkable anti-aging benefits.

 tai chi for healthTai Chi Boosts Stem Cells

Researchers at the Center for Neuropsychiatry at China Medical University Hospital in Taiwan separated 36 participants less than 25 years old into three groups. One group consistently practiced tai chi for a year, another group exercised with speed walking for a year, and a third group did not exercise at all.

Taiwanese researchers were specifically interested in tai chi’s effect on a certain type of stem cell called CD34+. CD34+ cells are involved in a large number of bodily functions and structures and are markers for blood stem cells that help bring about cell renewal, differentiation, and proliferation. Cell renewal helps maintain and repair organ systems whose function slows with age. In other words, these CD34+ stem cells are anti-aging warriors.

Results from the study showed that volunteers who practiced tai chi had a dramatically higher number of CD34+ cells than did volunteers who performed no exercise at all. In fact, tai chi raised stem cell counts in increments of three to five times! There was no appreciable difference between CD34+ stem cell count in people who practiced tai chi and individuals who engaged in speed walking. So, if tai chi isn’t your thing, bust out your walking shoes for a brisk walk!

Researchers also reported that tai chi boosted heart function, stimulated neural cells in the brain, helped regulate excitement and inhibition controls, and eased the stress of mental trauma and nerve exhaustion.

How Does Tai Chi Work

Tai chi is all about Qi, or the uninhibited flow of energy through the body. Tai chi exercises are designed to boost blood and energy flow. The movements emphasize correct spinal alignment and an interplay of breath and physical activity to help you stay focused on the present and release tension and stress. Tai chi movements shift weight from leg to leg, work a variety of different muscles, and strengthen joints, ligaments, and tendons by working with flexibility and range of motion.

Get involved with a tai chi class at your local community center or gym, and see if the slow-moving martial art jumpstarts your anti-aging mechanisms into overdrive. Learn some different tai chi exercises, and take 5 minutes in the morning to practice this ancient art and get your limbs moving.