By Dr. Shinn-Zong Lin
Tai Chi, a traditional Chinese martial art and sport, has been found to be beneficial in raising the numbers of an important type of cell when three groups of young people were tested to discover the benefits of Tai Chi, brisk walking or no exercise. The group performing Tai Chi saw a rise in their cluster of differentiation 34 expressing (CD34+) cells, a stem cell important to a number of the body’s functions and structures.
To evaluate the potential life-lengthening effect of Tai Chi, a a year-long, retrospective cross-sectional study was conducted at the Center for Neuropsychiatry, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan. It compared the rejuvenating and anti-aging effects among three groups of volunteers under the age of 25 who engaged in either Tai Chi (TCC), brisk walking (BW), or no exercise habit (NEH). Young volunteers were used because they have better cell-renewing abilities than the older population. This was also to avoid having chronic diseases and medications as interfering factors.
Compared with the NEH group, the TCC group had a significantly higher number of CD 34+. These cells express the CD 34 protein and are “cluster markers” for hematopoietic stem cells (blood stem cells) involved in cell self-renewal, differentiation and proliferation. The CD34+ cell count of the TCC group was not significantly higher than the BW group – unless the two oldest participants in the BW group were excluded. Considering that BW may require a larger space or more equipment, Tai Chi seems to be an easier and more convenient choice of anti-aging exercise.
The study has confirmed that Tai Chi can benefit patients with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease and fibromyalgia. In addition, their are possible advantages of Tai Chi in pain reduction, fall prevention and balance improvement, aerobic capacity, blood pressure, quality of life and stress reduction.