Does Tai Chi Exercise-Movement Improve Circulation?

tai chi pre diabetes exercise metabolic syndrome blood sugar body weight managementSmart exercise-movement is an important part of the Nutrientology mission since it is such an important part of a healthy metabolism, especially for those with diabetes or prediabetes and the resultant blood sugar, blood pressure and body weight challenges that these health problems present.  As regular readers know, “exercise” can mean a number of things because there are various ways to move and benefit from contracting muscles to assist with a healthy metabolism.  One of those ways involves Tai Chi.  

Tai Chi originally came about as a martial art in ancient China. It has evolved into a graceful form of exercise that is used for stress reduction, and other aspects of health and wellness. It has been described as “meditation in motion” because, unlike yoga which involves holding still positions, tai chi uses fluid movements while “connecting the mind and body.” It involves slow rhythmic exercise movements, stretching, and balance postures that are coordinated with breathing. One of its goals is to help you achieve a sense of inner calm. The concentration required for tai chi is meant to direct your mind to the present moment, thereby reducing stress.

Aerobic exercise in general can potentially lessen the hardening of the arteries that occurs as we age, but this circulation benefit has not been scientifically demonstrated for tai chi. It has been shown that its practice can improve muscle strength and cardiopulmonary function in the elderly, but whether or not it may improve the health of blood vessels is not known. Therefore, the primary aim of this study was to investigate whether Tai Chi practitioners have better arterial blood circulation health by evaluating “arterial compliance” and muscle strength. 

Arterial compliance just refers to the degree to which the artery blood vessel walls maintain some degree of flexibility. As we age our arteries tend to stiffen up or “harden.” This is not good. You want your blood vessel walls to maintain some degree of elasticity and flexibilty.

The study used twenty-nine independent living older Tai Chi practitioners with an average age of about 74 years, and 36 healthy control subjects with an average age of about 71 years. 

The results showed that the Tai Chi practitioners showed significantly better measures of circulation health and greater muscle strength as measured by their ability to resist both knee extension and knee flexion forces.

The authors conclude: “Tai Chi could be a suitable exercise for older persons to improve both cardiovascular function and muscle strength.”

Because Tai Chi is low impact and not typically very physically demanding (that doesn’t mean it is easy to do properly) most people can practice Tai Chi regardless of age or physical ability. It is helpful for all ages, but seems to appeal more to older adults, or adults that have not engaged in more conventional western exercise “work-outs.”  Nevertheless, this form of exercise-movement, like Yoga and Qigong, can be a helpful addition to your different approaches to exercise-movement.  As a matter of fact, many of us that are engaged in the fast-paced stress producing daily grind of contemporary American life could use this exercise art form more than we realize. Actually, as I have mentioned before on the blog, I have heard these forms of exercise referred to as a “work-in”, as opposed to the conventional “work-out” because of the mind-body aspects.  I like that term, but do not know who came up with it.  If you know, please tell me.

If you’re an older adult who otherwise may not exercise, this may be a good way for you to start engaging in some exercise-movement.  If you are a young, stressed out, overworked, always on, 24/7 kind of person, you should take a look at getting in a “work-in” every once in a while.

Tai Chi can be inexpensive, it requires no special equipment, it can be done indoors or outdoors, and either alone or with a group.  Check it out.






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About Robert Creighton

Dr. Creighton is a podiatrist and foot surgeon with over 26 years in podiatric practice treating thousands of patients afflicted with the physiological, physical, and psychological side effects and complications of diabetes and pre-diabetes metabolic syndrome. He believes these disorders present a pressing public health concern that need to be more actively addressed in a multidisciplinary way. Dr. Creighton graduated from what is now the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine after receiving his undergraduate degree in Biology. He is certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery, a member of the American Public Health Association, an American College of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and a Member of the American Nutrition Association.

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