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Tai Chi Linked to Longevity

Posted Aug 20 2013 10:07pm

A form of mind-body exercise that originated in ancient China, tai chi combines slow motion exercise and mind concentration to focus on movement.  Xianglan Zhang, from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (Tennessee, USA), and colleagues studied data collected on over 61,000 middle-aged and elderly men in Shanghai, China.  Researchers tracked their health and lifestyle for more than five years: nearly 22,000 participants reported that they exercised at least once a week, and the rest were considered non-exercisers.  Factoring in the men's age, health conditions and whether they smoked, exercise was tied to a 20% lower likelihood of dying.  Similarly, whereas 6.2% of the nearly 10,000 men who practiced tai chi died during the study, after adjusting for confounding factors the team found they were 20% less likely to die than men who didn't exercise. Further, the researchers observed that men who walked regularly were 23% less likely to die during the study, and men who jogged were 27% less likely to die. The study authors write that: “The present study provides the first evidence that, like walking and jogging, practicing Tai Chi is associated with reduced mortality.”

Na Wang, Xianglan Zhang, Yong-Bing Xiang, Honglan Li, Gong Yang, Jing Gao, Wei Zheng, Xiao-Ou Shu.  “Associations of Tai Chi, Walking, and Jogging With Mortality in Chinese Men.” Am. J. Epidemiol., June 27, 2013.

  
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Tip #192 - Stay Connected
Researchers from the University of Chicago (Illinois, USA) report that social isolation may be detrimental to both mental and physical health. The team analyzed data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, a nationwide US study involving 3,000 men and women, ages 57 to 85 years. They arrived at three key findings regarding the relationships between health and different types of isolation:

• The researchers found that the most socially connected older adults are three times as likely to report very good or excellent health compared to those who are least connected, regardless of whether they feel isolated.

• The team found that older adults who feel least isolated are five times as likely to report very good or excellent health as those who feel most isolated, regardless of their actual level of social connectedness.

• They determined that social disconnectedness is not related to mental health unless it brings feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Separately, Rush University Medical Center (Illinois, USA) researchers studied 906 older men and women, testing their motor functions (including grip, pinch strength, balance, and walking) and surveying their social activity, for a period of 5 years. Those study participants with less social activity were found to have a more rapid rate of motor function decline. Specifically, the team found that every one-point decrease in social activity corresponded to an increase in functional aging of 5 years, translating to a 40% higher risk of death and 65% higher risk of disability.

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