Tai Chi exercises offer anti-aging benefits at cellular level, study suggests, including pain and stress reduction

Jason Rehel | May 28, 2014 12:47 PM ET
More from Jason Rehel | @culturejunky


Steve Bosch/Postmedia News filesTai Chi, the ancient Chinese martial art, may offer anti-aging benefits for people of all ages, encouraging the rise in cells that help rejuvenate and restore the body, reducing stress and improving balance and blood flow.

A literal fountain of youth may be the stuff of fantasy, but a virtual one, activated by Tai Chi, the traditional Chinese martial art and sport, may exist, a new study on stem cells and the exercise regimen suggests.

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Study authors in Taiwan examined three groups of individuals under the age of 25 who participated either in Tai Chi regularly, brisk walking, or no exercise regimen at all. Among the Tai Chi group, the researchers observed that a stem cell important to a number of the body’s functions and structures saw a rise in its levels in the body.

Tai Chi “has been confirmed to benefit” patients with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease and fibromyalgia, the study authors wrote.

The stem cells, known as CD 34+, are “markers for hematopoietic stem cells (blood stem cells) involved in cell self-renewal, differentiation and proliferation.”

“Compared with the [no exercise] group, the Tai Chi group had a significantly higher number of CD 34+ cells,” researchers wrote.

In addition to its anti-aging effects, Tai Chi may also help increase blood flow in the body, and aid in pain reduction, fall prevention and balance improvement, aerobic capacity, blood pressure, quality of life and stress reduction.

But the study authors also acknowledged that this study provides only preliminary evidence of the benefits of the Chinese exercise regimen, saying more work is needed to isolate the causes of its positive effects, and how best to replicate them in varied populations.

“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, Fla.

“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.”