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Health benefits of Tai Chi

10th April 2007

Older adults who practise Tai Chi regularly may reduce their risk of getting shingles, according to a US-based study.

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Tai Chi is a slow, controlled form of exercise based on a theory from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that circulating energy, or qi, through the body's main organs, can maintain health and fitness.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and is the first rigorous clinical trial to suggest that a behavioural intervention, alone or in combination with a vaccine, can help protect older adults from the varicella zoster virus (VSV), which causes both chickenpox and shingles.

One in five people who have had chickenpox will get shingles later in life, usually after the age of 50, with the risk increasing with age.

Researchers found that a group of older adults who practised Tai Chi alongside having the varicella vaccine showed strengthened immunity to shingles.

National Institute on Aging Director Richard J. Hodes said: “More research is needed, but this study suggests that the Tai Chi intervention tested, in combination with immunization, may enhance protection of older adults from this painful condition.?

Tai Chi alone also showed a positive effect on immunity, comparable to the effect of using the vaccine on its own, they said.


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