T’ai Chi and Your Immune System
T’ai Chi practitioners know that they experience better overall health, but what are the mechanisms involved? Dr. Peter Wayne, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School is inclined to believe that movement, breathing, attention, visualization, and rich psychosocial interactions, make Tai Chi a powerful, multidimensional tool for improving one’s health.*
According to a recently published article in Asian Fortune Magazine, T’ai Chi can be a powerful force for improving the functioning of your immune system.** Tai Chi can create more efficient, deeper breathing and better blood circulation, allowing antibodies and cellular components of the immune system to better reach marauding pathogens and neutralize them.
Shingles The University of California – Los Angeles conducted a research study that found that 25 weeks of consistent T’ai Chi practice improved immune response to the shingles virus compared to people who received shingles vaccinations but did not practice Tai Chi. When Tai Chi practice was combined with vaccination, the seniors’ immune response was twice as high as vaccination alone.*** This level of immune response would be comparable to a person thirty years younger, thus T’ai Chi can lead to a kind of “re-youthing” effect.
Improving T Cell Function and WBC Counts Chang Kung University in Taiwan found that the regular practice of Tai Chi Chuan enhances T cells function in the immune system. This is of particular importance to the T cell function of patients with type 2 diabetes.**** The Chinese Culture University in Taiwan found that Tai Chi Chuan helped increase circulating myeloid dendritic cells, whose main function is to process antigens (bacteria, viruses, etc.) and help the T cells of the immune system to recognize the invaders. They kind of “out” the invaders so the T Cells can find and attack them. The researchers also noted that “white blood cell (WBC) count in the entire TCC group was greater than that of the controls.”*****
Preserving DNA Integrity A study at the University of Kebangsaan in Malaysia suggests that the regular practice of t’ai chi chuan can reduce damage to one’s DNA. 35 adults over the age of 45 who had practiced tai chi at least 7 years were compared to 35 individuals who did not practice T’ai Chi The individuals practicing T’ai chi had increased levels of normal DNA and lesser levels of damaged DNA compared to the control group who did not practice T’ai Chi.******
The consistent and steadfast practice of T’ai Chi Chuan promotes increased vitality, flexibility, improved mobility in the elderly and those recovering from illness or accidents, better emotional balance, and a greater sense of overall well-being. © 2014 Keith E. Hall and Inner-Tranquility.com All rights reserved.
*Wayne, P The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart, and Sharp Mind Harvard Health Publications and Shambhala; April 9, 2013
**Can Tai Chi Boost Your Immune System? Asian Fortune Magazine Dec. 23 2013
***Irwin, M.R., et al. Augmenting immune responses to varicella zoster virus in older adults: A randomized, controlled trial of Tai Chi. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2007), 55(4):511-517
****Yeh, et al, Regular Tai Chi Chuan exercise improves T cell helper function of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus with an increase in T-bet transcription factor and IL-12 production Br J Sports Med 2009;43:845-850 doi:10.1136/bjsm.2007.043562
*****Chiang J, et al, Tai Chi Chuan increases circulating myeloid dendritic cells. Immunol Invest. 2010;39(8):863-73. doi: 10.3109/08820139.2010.503766. Epub 2010 Aug 18.
******Med J Malaysia. 2008 Oct;63(4):319-24.
See the CBS WUSA TV 9 interview with Keith Hall, Andrea Roane, and Jeff Besougloff about T’ai Chi for stress reduction and self-mastery here.
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