It fights hypertension, improves respiratory capacity, reduces stress and insomnia and keeps joints mobile. Moreover, it costs almost nothing.
A new magic pill…? No, it’s Tai Chi Chuan.
TAI CHI CHUAN is the ancient martial art that is achieving so much success in the West, precisely because of its therapeutic virtues now confirmed by dozens of scientific studies. Virtues that will be celebrated on the occasion of World Tai Chi Day. The initiative, which has the patronage of the UN, includes seminars and demonstration activities in over sixty countries.
But what is the reason for the effectiveness of Tai Chi? “It is not only a valid method of relaxation”, replies F. Bottaccioli (President of the Italian Society of Psycho-neuro-endocrine-immunology and expert in Chinese Medicine). “Tai Chi is also a physical activity that benefits the cardio-respiratory and musculoskeletal systems. It is said that if it were patentable it would be a widespread drug like aspirin”.
Yet in Italy this ancient and relatively little known discipline is little practiced. And even in the East its revival is quite recent: it was in fact Mao Zedong (Mao Tse Tung) who imposed it on millions of compatriots as an effective and cheap anti-aging therapy.
In summary, the practice of Tai Chi translates into the execution of the so-called “forms”, sequences of movements with suggestive names … “Those who see Tai Chi practice for the first time have the impression of attending a dance. In reality, Tai Chi is what is called an Internal Martial Art and as such is part of the world of martial arts”, explains Tai Chi teacher L. Autru, and adds: “Unlike Western gymnastics, which involve a certain expenditure of energy and therefore are not suitable for everyone, Tai Chi, generally it is based on gentle, conscious movements, combined with breathing, which favor the circulation of Internal Energy and help to remove the blockages that turn first into functional damage and then into organic disease”.
S. Bacetti (the head of the Center for Traditional Chinese Medicine Fior di Prugna of the ASL of Florence) explains: “According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, in fact, health depends on a good circulation of energy, which can be blocked by various factors, such as dietary errors, or by what the Chinese call external perverse energies: climatic variations or infections, but also negative feelings, namely emotions such as anger and sadness”.
So far the supporters of this ancient martial art. But what does Western medicine think? Although with very different terminology, it seems to agree on its effectiveness. “The practice of Tai Chi involves deep, natural breathing, which deeply oxygenates the body, decreasing the activation of stress and stimulating immune responses”, explains Bottaccioli. A recent study carried out by M.R. Irwin, of the University of California, Los Angeles, on a group of over sixty, and published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, shows that a few months of Tai Chi practice are enough to significantly increase the immune response and that it is precisely the most fragile people who benefit the most. “Another research, performed on stroke patients” continues Bottaccioli “shows instead that Tai Chi can be more effective than normal physiotherapy in facilitating reintegration”. Also a review of the Cochrane Collaboration, the international non-profit organization that is perhaps the most rigorous voice in defense of evidence-based medicine, admits that the practice of Tai Chi can help those suffering from arthritis because, without defeating the disease, it can improve the mobility of the legs and hip. “The merit of the Eastern tradition is to have unified movement and meditation, combining the benefits of these two techniques,” says Bacetti.
In short, in addition to the body, Tai Chi is good for the spirit and it is not said that the two things are not related. “Not only does it give health benefits, but it serves to gain a certain inner serenity, to know one’s body and self better and to channel one’s aggression in a positive way, fighting anxiety and psychosomatic disorders”. Oncologists at the University of Rochester compared Tai Chi with the psychological support usually offered to women operated for breast cancer, to conclude that this practice guarantees an improvement in quality of life and a much higher self-esteem”, continues Bottaccioli, “while controlled studies on the elderly, published in the Journal of the American Geriatic Society, show how Tai Chi can help fight insomnia and improve balance. reducing falls”.
So in the Netherlands a large study has just been launched to evaluate the effectiveness of this discipline in the prevention of fractures in the over-seventies.
Without forgetting the advantages on the cardio-circulatory system: researchers at Harvard Medical School examined a group of patients suffering from chronic heart failure, who followed a biweekly Tai Chi course for three months “obtaining improvements such as to suggest that Tai Chi should be added to the standard therapies provided for this disorder”, underlines Bottaccioli.
Except in special cases, Tai Chi has no contraindications and can be practiced at all ages. “Even if to start it at a very advanced age requires a certain commitment” warns L. Autru, “while those who already practice it can use it to age well: on the other hand, the ultimate goal of Tai Chi is precisely to extend life”.
Taken from: www. Sport and medicine