T’ai Chi Ch’uan To Promote Good Health
Copyright Harvey Kurland, M.Sc., MFS, CSCS, 2003

The latest research shows stress reduction helps to prevent angina in Heart Patients during stressful events. Recently low intensity exercise has been shown to prevent heart attacks and increase life span. A daily regime of t’ai-chi fit the Rx, act a stress reducer and as a low intensity aerobic exercise. More at www.dotaichi.com

T’ai-chi ch’uan (taijiquan) has been shown to lower high blood pressure according to the March issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It was found that Yang style of t’ai-chi significantly reduced high blood pressure in overweight hypertensive individuals, who were over 60 years old. They did tai chi for 30 to 45 minutes four to five times a week. The researchers found that, “Exercise intensity may be less important than other factors.” Because even though Yang style t’ai-chi studied was low intensity, it reduced high blood pressure as well or better than other more strenuous aerobic exercise. In another study, 126 heart attack patients (acute myocardial infarction), average age of 56 years, were randomized into three groups: T'ai-chi, aerobic exercise and non-exercise support group. They exercise 2 times a week for 3 weeks then once a week for 5 weeks. Only the patients practicing t'ai-chi ch’uan showed a decrease in diastolic blood pressure. There were significant reductions in systolic blood pressure in both exercise groups. (Postgrad Med J 1996 Ju;72(848):349-351)

T’ai-chi has also been found to prevent falls, reduce the negative effects of stress and it may even make you smarter and more coordinated. Some of my UCR students commented it helped to improve their golf and tennis games. The latest research on aging shows that stress adversely effects the brain as we age. Stress hormones actually cause part of the brain to shrink which results in memory loss. To reverse this you have to reduce stress. Researchers have also found that learning a novel activity and performing a physical exercise helps to improve brain functioning. T’ai-chi ch’uan, which is an ancient form of Chinese Internal Kung-fu, helps to reduce stress and may even make you smarter and more coordinated. T’ai-chi acts similar to yoga as a stress reduction method.

Recent issues of The Cornell University’s Food & Fitness Advisor (11/98, p 3), The UC Berkeley Wellness Letter (11/98, p 6) and The Saturday Evening Post (8/98) supported t’ai-chi ch’uan’s health benefits. The Food & Fitness Advisor claims t’ai-chi will help prevent osteoporosis, prevent falls, and help people with arthritis. They quote research that shows it can reduce high blood pressure and is “As effective as meditation and brisk walking... in reducing levels of stress hormones.”
The UC Berkeley Wellness Letter said, “Though tai chi movements are slow they can provide a fairly intense workout.” The Letter claims “Tai chi can be a form of physical therapy and aid in the recovery from injuries”, and “instill physical confidence and may enhance balance and coordination.” It tones the muscles of the lower body and because the posture is emphasized, strain on the neck and back is relieved. They claim that, “Tai chi can have some of the same psychological benefit as Yoga”, helping students relax, improve flexibility, relieving muscle tension and anxiety. But, they suggest to supplement the t’ai-chi with other aerobic exercise. T’ai-chi can help to prevent osteoporosis from occurring later in life, as well as to manage stress and help you become more “Centered” and serene. More at www.dotaichi.com

To do t’ai-chi ch’uan correctly you must learn it correctly, and the teacher must have the focus of teaching you to be able to practice it on your own, rather than using the outdated “follow the leader” approach. A step by step learning approach, such as taught by a certified NWTCCA classes works best. Find a good teacher, from a reputable school who has at least 5 years of t’ai-chi ch’uan study and is certified to teach by a reputable t’ai-chi organization. The regular daily practice of tai chi helps to maintain basic fitness and improve your health. You should always check with your Doctor before starting any exercise program.

The Author: Harvey Kurland, M.Sc., MFS, CSCS, is an Exercise Physiologist and Certified Instructor, i.e., “Sifu” of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, certified by the Chinese T'ai-Chi Ch'uan Association. Kurland is a lineage holder through Grandmaster Tchoung Ta-tchen of the Old Form of Yang Style. He teachers for the University of California Riverside, Riverside Community College, Redlands Aikikai, and Loma Linda University Drayson Center. www.myspace.com/hkurland

Author's Bio: 

Harvey Kurland, M.Sc., MFS, CSCS, is an Exercise Physiologist and Certified T'ai-Chi Ch'uan Instructor. He Is certified by the Chinese T'ai-Chi Ch'uan Association, American College of Sports Medicine, International Sports Sciences Association, and National Strength and Conditioning Association. He Teaches for the University of California Riverside UNEX and Loma Linda University Drayson Center. He has produced several tai chi Instructional tapes and wrote the book Asian Mind-Body Techniques Revealed. www.myspace.com/hkurland