Tai Chi is often described as meditation in motion. This ancient Chinese practice has many proven health benefits, from lowering stress levels and boosting memory to increasing flexibility and improving balance. Now, a new study reveals that the long term practice of Tai Chi can slow the aging process by boosting certain types of stem cells.
The research, published in the journal Cell Transplantation, found that Tai Chi helps raise levels of CD34+ cells. These cells are considered markers (or signs) of blood stem cells, which are involved in cell production and cell self-renewal.
Researchers conducted a year-long study to observe the various health effects among three groups of young volunteers (all under age 25): one group practiced Tai Chi, another group took part in brisk walking (BW), and the rest did no exercise at all.
The researchers wanted to recruit young people for the study because of their stronger cell-renewing abilities. Young participants would also be less likely to have chronic diseases or take daily medications—factors that would interfere with the results.
The Tai Chi participants practiced the eight essentials of Tai Chi: the ward off, roll back, press, push, pluck, lay, elbow, and lean sideways. They practiced at least twice a week for more than one year. Each practice began with a warm-up exercise and ended in a calming exercise (a stationary stance and breathing from the diaphragm). The findings revealed that the Tai Chi group had a significantly higher number of CD34+ cells compared to the no-exercise volunteers.“It is possible that Tai Chi may prompt vasodilation and increase blood flow, which in turn enhances the production of CD34+ cells," wrote the researchers in Cell Transplantation. "Considering that BW (brisk walking) may require a larger space or more equipment, Tai Chi seems to be an easier and more convenient choice of anti-aging exercise."
The practice of Tai Chi involves deep breathing and deliberate, focused body movements that flow gently without pause. If you have been looking for a low-impact, stress-relieving, age-defying exercise, give Tai Chi a try. This unique ancient practice may be the perfect fit for you.
As Chungliang Al Huang (founder-president of the Living Tao Foundation) once said, “Tai Chi does not mean oriental wisdom or something exotic. It is the wisdom of your own senses, your own mind and body together as one process.”