Tai Chi May Help Slow The Aging Process
May 29, 2014

Practicing Tai Chi May Help Lengthen Your Life

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Tai Chi Chuan, or Tai Chi as it is commonly known, is an ancient form of Chinese martial arts. Originally developed as a form of self-defense, today Tai Chi has become a graceful exercise used to reduce stress and other health concerns, according to the Mayo Clinic.

A new study from the China Medical University Hospital reveals that Tai Chi also results in an increased expression of cluster of differentiation 34 (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, we conducted a year-long, retrospective cross-sectional study comparing 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)," said Dr. Shinn-Zong Lin of the Center for Neuropsychiatry, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan. "We used young volunteers because they have better cell-renewing abilities than the old population and we also wanted to avoid having chronic diseases and medications as interfering factors."

Previous studies have shown that patients with mild to moderate Parkinson's disease and fibromyalgia have benefited from the practice of Tai Chi. Tai Chi, which is a form of moving meditation, has also been found beneficial in pain reduction, fall prevention and balance improvement, aerobic capacity, blood pressure, quality of life and stress reduction.

"Compared with the NEH group, the TCC group had a significantly higher number of CD 34+ cells," wrote the authors. "We found that the CD34+ cell count of the TCC group was significantly higher than the BW group."

The researchers explained that CD34+ cells express the CD34 protein. The cells are also "cluster markers" for hematopoietic, or blood, stem cells. These stem cells are involved in cell self-renewal, differentiation and proliferation.

"It is possible that Tai Chi may prompt vasodilatation and increase blood flow," said Lin. "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."

"This study provides the first step into providing scientific evidence for the possible health benefits of Tai Chi." said Dr. Paul R. Sanberg, distinguished professor at the Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair, Morsani College of Medicine, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL. "Further study of how Tai Chi can elicit benefit in different populations and on different parameters of aging are necessary to determine its full impact."

The findings of this study were published in a recent issue of Cell Transplantation.