Benefits of Tai Chi

by Master Trainer and Exercise Physiologist, Jie Yang

Master Trainer Jie Yang

Master Trainer Jie Yang will be leading a New Tai Chi class at Club Fit Brircliff

Born in Xi’an, China, Jie Yang is trained in various martial arts forms including Taichi and Xingyi. He holds his Master’s in Exercise Science and Rehabilitation and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist by American College of Sports Medicine.

Jie will be leading a new Tai Chi fitness program at Club Fit Briarcliff, beginning October 21st.

The core training in this class involves a slow sequence of movements (solo form) which emphasize a straight spine, abdominal breathing, and a natural range of motion, with the form being performed over their center of gravity. Accurate, repeated practice of the routine can retrain posture, encourage circulation throughout our bodies and maintain flexibility through the joints.

Research-established benefits

  1. Promotion of balance control, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, and has shown to reduce the risk of falls in both healthy young performers and elderly patients [2, 15], and those recovering from chronic stroke [3], heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attacks, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and fibromyalgia [4-5].
  2. Tai chi’s gentle, low impact movements burn more calories than surfing and nearly as many as downhill skiing [6].
    Tai chi, along with yoga, has reduced levels of LDLs 20–26 milligrams when practiced for 12–14 weeks [7].
  3. Compared to regular stretching, tai chi showed the ability to greatly reduce pain and improve overall physical and mental health in people over 60 with severe osteoarthritis of the knee [8]. In addition, a pilot study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, has found preliminary evidence that tai chi and related qigong may reduce the severity of diabetes [9].
  4. In a randomized trial of 66 patients with fibromyalgia, the tai chi intervention group did significantly better in terms of pain, fatigue, sleeplessness and depression than a comparable group given stretching exercises and wellness education [5].
  5. A recent study evaluated the effects of two types of behavioral intervention, tai chi and health education, on healthy adults, who, after 16 weeks of the intervention, were vaccinated with VARIVAX, a live attenuated Oka/Merck Varicella zoster virus vaccine. The tai chi group showed higher and more significant levels of cell-mediated immunity to varicella zoster virus than the control group that received only health education. It appears that tai chi augments resting levels of varicella zoster virus-specific cell-mediated immunity and boosts the efficacy of the varicella vaccine. Tai chi alone does not lessen the effects or probability of a shingles attack, but it does improve the effects of the varicella zoster virus vaccine [10].

Stress and mental health
A systematic review and meta-analysis, funded in part by the U.S. government, of the current (as of 2010) studies on the effects of practicing Tai Chi found that, “Twenty-one of 33 randomized and nonrandomized trials reported that 1 hour to 1 year of regular Tai Chi significantly increased psychological well-being including reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression, and enhanced mood in community-dwelling healthy participants and in patients with chronic conditions. Seven observational studies with relatively large sample sizes reinforced the beneficial association between Tai Chi practice and psychological health [11].”
There have also been indications that tai chi might have some effect on noradrenaline and cortisol reduction with an effect on mood and heart rate. However, the effect may be no different than those derived from other types of physical exercise [12]. In one study, tai chi has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in 13 adolescents. The improvement in symptoms seem to persist after the tai chi sessions were terminated [13].
In June, 2007 the United States National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine published an independent, peer-reviewed, meta-analysis of the state of meditation research, conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta Evidence-based Practice Center. The report reviewed 813 studies (88 involving Tai Chi) of five broad categories of meditation: mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong. The report concluded that “the therapeutic effects of meditation practices cannot be established based on the current literature,” and “firm conclusions on the effects of meditation practices in healthcare cannot be drawn based on the available evidence [14].

In 2003, the National Library of Medicine, the largest medical library in the world and subdivision of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded a grant to American Tai Chi and Qigong Association to build a website titled “The Online Tai Chi & Health Information Center.” The information center was officially released in 2004 and has since then been providing scientific, reliable, and comprehensive information about various health benefits of Tai Chi – for arthritis, diabetes, fall prevention, pain reduction, mental health, cardiovascular diseases, fitness, and general well-being.

References
1. Wang, C; Collet JP & Lau J (2004). “The effect of Tai Chi on health outcomes in patients with chronic conditions: a systematic review”. Archives of Internal Medicine 164 (5): 493–501
2. Wolf, SL; Sattin RW & Kutner M (2003). “Intense tai chi exercise training and fall occurrences in older, transitionally frail adults: a randomized, controlled trial”. Journal of the American Geriatric Society 51 (12): 1693–701.
3. Au-Yeung, PhD, Stephanie S. Y.; Christina W. Y. Hui-Chan, PhD, and Jervis C. S. Tang, MSW (January 7, 2009). “Short-form Tai Chi improves Standing Balance of People with Chronic Stroke”. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair 23(5): 515.
4. Taggart HM, Arslanian CL, Bae S, Singh K. Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, GA, USA. Effects of T’ai Chi exercise on fibromyalgia symptoms and health-related quality of life. PMID: 14595996
5. McAlindon, T, Wang, C; Schmid, CH; Rones, R; Kalish, R; Yinh, J; Goldenberg, DL; Lee, Y; McAlindon, T (August 19, 2010). “A Randomized Trial of Tai Chi for Fibromyalgia.”. New England Journal of Medicine 363 (8): 743–754.
6. “Calories burned during exercise”. NutriStrategy. http://www.nutristrategy.com/activitylist3.htm.
7. Brody, Jane E. (2007-08-21). “Cutting Cholesterol, an Uphill Battle”. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/21/health/21brod.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1190862080-FWYKVQhkU70Kz/P+y3V9pw.
8. Dunham, Will (October 25, 2008). “Tai chi helps cut pain of knee arthritis”. Reuters.
9. Pennington, LD (2006). “Tai chi: an effective alternative exercise”. DiabetesHealth.
10. Irwin, MR; Olmstead, R & Oxman, MN (2007). “Augmenting Immune Responses to Varicella Zoster Virus in Older Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Tai Chi”. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 55 (4): 511–517.
11. Wang C, Bannuru R, et al (2010). Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis.
12. Jin, P (1989). “Changes in Heart Rate, Noradrenaline, Cortisol and Mood During Tai Chi”. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 33 (2): 197–206.
13. Hernandez-Reif, M; Field, TM & Thimas, E (2001). “Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: benefits from Tai Chi”. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies 5 (2): 120–123.
14. Ospina MB, Bond TK, Karkhaneh M, Tjosvold L, Vandermeer B, Liang Y, Bialy L, Hooton N,Buscemi N, Dryden DM, Klassen TP (June 2007). “Meditation Practices for Health: State of the Research (Prepared by the University of Alberta Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-02-0023)” .Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 155 (Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) (AHRQ Publication No. 07-E010): 6
15. UMR 6152 Mouvement et Perception, CNRS and University of the Mediterranean, Marseille, France (April, 2008). How does practise of internal Chinese martial arts influence postural reaction control? Journal of Sports Sciences 26(6): 629 – 642

 

To Keep You Inspired… Club Fit Instructor Harriette DeCarlo

by Lisa Olney, Club Fit guest blogger.

Club Fit Instructor Harriette DeCarlo

Club Fit Instructor Harriette DeCarlo

At 85 years young, Club Fit aquatic exercise instructor Harriette DeCarlo is an energetic powerhouse whose confident, welcoming handshake is indicative of the joie de vivre in which she lives her life. Always moving, always educating, Harriette leads those around her to a healthy body, a healthy mind and a healthy lifestyle.

A swimmer in high school, Harriette has always been an athlete — an avid runner, rower, and follower of Tai Chi, which she practiced at the Chuang Yen Monastery, a Buddhist monastery on 225 acres in Carmel, NY. But it wasn’t until joining Club Fit 30 years ago, that exercise truly became a part of her daily routine. Recognizing Harriette’s passion and knowledge of aquatic exercise and Tai Chi, Club Fit hired her two years later as an aquatics instructor, and she helped the club launch its first aquatic Tai Chi class in the 1990s. Since then Harriette has been enlightening members at Club Fit to the strengthening and restorative power of mind-body fitness in the water. Currently, Harriette teaches “Mind/Body Aquatics” on Tuesday mornings at 10:00 am. The class — a blend of yoga, Pilates, balance, and tai chi — is a full body workout integrating breathing, core strengthening, balance and relaxation.

So, how does Club Fit’s version of the Energizer Bunny keep going? “I can’t imagine a week without exercise,” says Harriette. “The Club is so much a part of my life that I don’t feel good if I’m not here.” Her routine at the club anchors her day, and she works out three to four days a week. On Tuesdays before her 10:00 am Mind/Body Aquatics class, she arrives at the gym around 7:00 am, and does her normal workout of cardio, weights, and stretching. Then she goes to the Café to meet with her longtime breakfast group of almost 20 years. Next, she heads to the Aquatic Center for her class, and then it’s back to the café to meet her lunch group, which has been meeting since she started teaching in 1988. Yes, her lunch group is 28 years old and an amazing testament to the friendships formed over the common bond of exercise, camaraderie and healthy lifestyles.

“I don’t think there’s a club in Westchester that compares to this,” says Harriette, “I will never give up Club Fit.” Harriette also feels the club is not afraid to lead, to take the initiative to do things that haven’t been done before — and not only in programming. “This is the only club I know that hires people with special needs,” Harriett says proudly. “I’ve never worked in a club that had the guts to do that — that took the initiative to do that.”

So, what’s next for Harriette? Rest assured, it will be more of the same with the current aquatic trend featuring yoga and Pilates — components she already integrates into her Mind/Body Aquatics class. And, rest assured, Harriette stands ready to welcome newcomers and regulars, alike, to Club FIt, the Aquatic Center, or even her breakfast and lunch groups, with her captivating smile and and that joie de vivre that make her not only an amazing instructor, but an amazing friend.