TAI CHI HAS PROVEN HEALTH BENEFITS Tai Chi, the ancient martial art, can improve health and fitness levels for people of all ages. Unlike more strenuous physical activities, Tai Chi’s slow, balanced movements “are very accessible to older adults or patient populations that may have some physical limitations,” says Dr. Michael Irwin, a professor of psychiatry and a researcher at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, part of the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine. He’s conducted extensive research on Tai Chi’s health benefits. Tai Chi practitioners define one of the discipline’s health benefits as the ability to restore a yin-yang physiological balance to qi, or life energy. Tai Chi works because the muscle movements in the exercises stimulate the flow of qi through the body and the major organs. Other tai chi exercises cultivate growth and storage of qi leading to longer life, better health and faster recovery from accidents. Irwin says there’s currently no way to scientifically validate this, “But I’m not bothered by that, because there are lots of things in the world that we do not understand because we do not yet have a way to measure them.” He and other researchers have compared the health of Tai Chi practitioners against that of more sendentary types of individuals. Using a “Medical Outcomes Scale,” researchers have shown “that there are robust improvements in physical function — simple things like being able to carry groceries, walk, go up stairs,” Irwin says. Tai Chi’s aerobic effect increases metabolism and physical conditioning occurs with regular practice. Benefits extend to other areas. Tai Chi can help elderly practitioners reduce their risk for falls. Another UCLA study, to be published soon in the journal Gerontology, showed that Tai Chi boosted the sympathetic nervous system function, which is related to cardiovascular health. According to Irwin, no one has yet done a study on Tai Chi’s effect on depression, although two UCLA studies did note significant improvements in mood in non-depressed people who took up the practice. Different tai chi moves have one thing in common; they have a psychological benefit gained by the mind-body link in Tai Chi exercises. Practice directs the mind to focus on the moves, reduces distractions and results in peace of mind. For more information about Tai Chi for health and well-being contact Dr. Richard Browne at (305) 595-9500.