Why your bones and heart will love t’ai chi

iStock_000015999421XSmall_tai_chiAs spring rolls in and I’m seeing more and more people go by my window for a long run or walk, I can’t help but think about the connection between bone health and cardiovascular health.

After all, we know there’s a clear link between the two — so much so that people with osteoporosis may benefit from cardiovascular disease screening. An earlier study shows that people with osteoporosis are nearly six times more likely to have coronary heart disease than those without.

But if hitting the pavement doesn’t appeal to you, you’ll be interested in two new studies that emphasize how many options you have to keep your heart and bones safe and healthy. One of the best is by practicing t’ai chi, which gives you the following benefits:

T’ai chi reduces fall risk

While spring brings warm weather in other parts of the country, where I live there can still be snowy and icy, so I’m still taking special care. That said we need to be thinking about preventing dangerous falls year-round. A recent study focused on the use of t’ai chi-based exercising to keep dementia patients and their caregivers safe from falls. After 16 weeks of practicing t’ai chi, participants scored better on functional tests designed to test fall risk. While this study focused on a specific population, I have no doubt that my practice of t’ai chi has helped me keep my balance and reduced my chance of fracturing in some tricky situations.

T’ai chi training improves cardiovascular health and muscle strength

In another study, older women built muscle strength and heart health by performing t’ai chi as little as three times a week for 16 weeks. This news is very important as many people still think cardiovascular health can only be achieved by pounding away on a treadmill or practicing high-intensity yoga — which many of us prefer not to do! This study emphasizes that t’ai chi provides a great exercise alternative, especially since we know it also calms our minds, another important benefits for bone health.

Personally I practice Qi Gong exercises, a close cousin to t’ai chi, on a daily basis. I use the Qi Gong system known as the “Dragon’s Way” developed by Dr. Nan Lu and consistently find improvement in balance, muscle conditioning, digestion and ideal weight maintenance. For information on Dr. Lu’s program see his book, “Traditional Chinese Medicine: Lose 12 Pounds in Six Weeks with Dragon’s Way®” and his Qi Gong exercise DVD.

Incorporating t’ai chi or its cousin Qi Gong into an exercise routine is one of my favorite examples of the Better Bones Revolution principle that everything you do for your bone health will also be good for the rest of your body.

 

References:

Yao, L., Giordani, B, Algase, D.L., You, M., Alexander, N.B (2012). Fall Risk-relevant Functional Mobility Outcomes in Dementia Following Dyadic Tai Chi Exercise. Western Journal of Nursing Research. Published online 2012 April 19. doi: 10.1177/0193945912443319. PMCID: PMC3468653

Lu X, Hui-Chan CW, Tsang WW. (2013) Effects of Tai Chi training on arterial compliance and muscle strength in female seniors: a randomized clinical trial. Eur J Prev Cardiol. April;20(2):238-45. doi: 10.1177/2047487311434233. Epub 2012 Jan 4.

 


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