Balance and Fitness in the Elderly and Tai Chi Training

Balance and Fitness in the Elderly and Tai Chi Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese exercise that can help older adults improve their balance and lower their fall risk. And by reducing their risk of falls, seniors can lower their odds of suffering a debilitating fracture.” – Harvard Health Letter

 

The process of aging affects every aspect of the physical and cognitive domains. Every system in the body deteriorates including motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. Impaired balance is a particular problem as it can lead to falls. In the U.S. one third of people over 65 fall each year and 2.5 million are treated in emergency rooms for injuries produced by falls. About 1% of falls result in deaths making it the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly.

 

Falls, with or without injury, also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults, fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness. It is obviously important to discover methods to improve balance and decrease the number of fall in the elderly.

 

Tai Chi training is designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. It includes balance training and has been shown to improve balance and coordination. These studies, however, employ Tai Chi training over long time frames of 6 months to a year. It is not known if shorter term training would also be effective.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of 12 Weeks of Tai Chi Chuan Training on Balance and Functional Fitness in Older Japanese Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5968980/ ), Takeshima and colleagues recruited older adults averaging 73 years of age and assigned them to either receive 12 weeks of Tai Chi training for 2 days per week for 60 minutes or to a no-treatment control group. They were measured before and after training for static balance, dynamic balance, and functional fitness, including upper and lower body strength, balance and agility, upper and lower body flexibility, and cardiorespiratory fitness.

 

Contrary to longer-term studies, they did not find any significant differences between the Tai Chi training and no-treatment control groups in static balance, dynamic balance, or functional fitness.  This lack of benefit of Tai Chi training may well be due to the relative shortness of the 12-week program relative to previous studies employing 6-month to one year trainings. Indeed, previous research by Holmes and colleagues also employing a 12 week program could not detect any overall improvement in balance, but could detect a subtle improvement in postural-respiratory coupling. This may be a precursor to improvements in overall balance. So, 12-weeks of training may produce subtle changes that, if continued over a longer period of time, will lead to improvements in balance.

 

Tai Chi movement patterns can be fairly complex and the elderly may have difficulty learning them over a few sessions. Indeed, it has been reported that it takes 8 to 16 sessions before the patterns are mastered. So, there may need for longer periods of training to master the technique and benefit from it. Hence, there is a need for further research on the amount of Tai Chi training needed to improve balance and reduce falls in the elderly.

 

“I’ve always been clumsy, so Tai Chi has offered me the opportunity to be able to think more about what I’m doing, pay attention to what I’m doing, and not fall. I’m able to catch myself if I trip over something because of Tai Chi,” – Velma Chapman

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Takeshima, N., Islam, M. M., Kato, Y., Koizumi, D., Narita, M., Kitabayashi, Y., … Rogers, M. E. (2017). Effects of 12 Weeks of Tai Chi Chuan Training on Balance and Functional Fitness in Older Japanese Adults. Sports, 5(2), 32. http://doi.org/10.3390/sports5020032

 

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of Tai Chi Chuan on static and dynamic balance, and functional fitness in older adults. Forty-nine volunteers were divided into an exercise group (EX: 9 men and 16 women, average age 72 ± 5 years) and control group (13 men and 11 women, average age 73 ± 6 years). The EX participated in a 12-week supervised exercise program (60 min/day, 2 days/week) that consisted of 10-min warm-up and stretching, 40-min Tai Chi Chuan exercise (long-form Yang style with 108 movements), and 10-min cool-down/relaxation exercises. The control group was asked to not change their physical activity habits. Static (sway velocity standing on firm or foam surfaces with eyes open or closed) and dynamic balance (limits of stability (LOS)), as well as functional fitness measures of body mass; upper- and lower-body strength; and flexibility, mobility, and aerobic fitness were taken before and after the intervention. After the 12-week Tai Chi Chuan exercise program, there were no improvements in any functional fitness or balance variable although components of LOS tended to increase (13.1%, p = 0.052). These results indicate that 12 weeks of Tai Chi Chuan exercise has no significant effect on balance and functional fitness parameters in older Japanese adults.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5968980/

 

Improve Balance in Breast Cancer Patients with Qigong Practice

Improve Balance in Breast Cancer Patients with Qigong Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“In terms of qigong influence on my cancer, a bone density scan carried some months ago has shown that, not only have I not lost further bone material, but, bone density has improved and there is growth of new material. I attribute this to my qigong practice since this is beyond the power of medication to effect this kind of outcome.” – Jean Caron

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. But cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. Cancer and its treatment often results in bone loss making the individual more vulnerable to fractures especially after falls.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to alleviate many of the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including stress,  sleep disturbance, and anxiety and depression. Tai Chi or Qigong practice has been shown to improve quality of life, reduce fatigue, lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, improve balance and reduce the likelihood of falls. It is not known, however, if Qigong practice can help to strengthen bones and reduce the likelihood of fractures.

 

In today’s Research News article “Bone Mineral Density, Balance Performance, Balance Self-Efficacy, and Falls in Breast Cancer Survivors With and Without Qigong Training: An Observational Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5950950/ ), Fong and colleagues recruited breast cancer survivors who had undergone standard treatments and separated them into two groups; those who performed Qigong practice for at least 3 months and those who did not practice. They also recruited a healthy control group that did not engage in Qigong practice. The participants were measured for whole body, hip, and arm bone density, balance, history of falls and fear of falling.

 

They found that the Breast cancer group that performed Qigong practice had significantly better balance and lower fear of falling than those who did not practice. In fact, those who practiced were equivalent to healthy controls in balance and fear of falling. It was those who didn’t practice who were deficient. They did not find differences between the groups in bone density. So, although Qigong practice did not appear to strengthen bones in breast cancer survivors, it did appear to improve balance and reduce their fear of falling making fractures less likely.

 

Falls and the resultant bone fractures are a significant threat not only to the quality of life of breast cancer survivors but also to their longevity. Hence, the benefits of improvements in balance for these patients should not be underappreciated. They could well lead to longer and better lives.

 

So, improve balance in breast cancer patients with qigong practice.

 

“Tai Chi may lead to better physical balance and stronger circulation of blood and energy. Tai Chi is a complimentary method for both preparing and recovering from surgery. Practicing with a positive, motivated group of people who are interested in empowering themselves with mind/body tools is a great support group for people who like to take an active role in their journey to better health.” – Cancer Wellness TV

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Shirley S. M. Fong, Anna W. M. Choi, W. S. Luk, Timothy T. T. Yam, Joyce C. Y. Leung, Joanne W. Y. Chung. Bone Mineral Density, Balance Performance, Balance Self-Efficacy, and Falls in Breast Cancer Survivors With and Without Qigong Training: An Observational Study. Integr Cancer Ther. 2018 Mar; 17(1): 124–130. Published online 2017 Jan 4. doi: 10.1177/1534735416686687

 

Abstract

Purpose: A deterioration in bone strength and balance performance after breast cancer treatment can result in injurious falls. Therefore, interventions need to be developed to improve the bone strength and balance ability of breast cancer survivors. This cross-sectional exploratory study aimed to compare the bone mineral density (BMD), balance performance, balance self-efficacy, and number of falls between breast cancer survivors who practiced qigong, breast cancer survivors who did not practice qigong, and healthy individuals. Methods: The study included 40 breast cancer survivors with more than 3 months of qigong experience, 17 breast cancer survivors with no qigong experience, and 36 healthy controls. All the participants underwent dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scans to measure their lumbar spine, total hip, femoral neck, and total radius BMDs. The participants also underwent a timed one-leg stand test to measure their single-leg standing balance. The participants’ balance self-efficacy was assessed using the activities-specific balance confidence scale, and the number of falls experienced by each participant was assessed in a face-to-face interview. Results: The lumbar spine, total hip, femoral neck, and total radius BMDs were similar between the 3 groups (P > .05). The breast cancer-qigong group outperformed the breast cancer-control group by 27.3% when they performed the one-leg stand test on a foam surface (P = .025), and they also had a higher balance self-efficacy score (P = .006). Nevertheless, the numbers of falls were comparable between the 3 groups (P > .05). Conclusion: Qigong may be a suitable exercise for improving the balance performance and balance self-efficacy of breast cancer survivors.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5950950/

Improve Arthritis with Qigong

Improve Arthritis with Qigong

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Qigong techniques are simple and do not need to be carried out precisely to bring about its great benefits. Qigong practice is known for preventing disease, strengthening immunity and producing better health and well-being. However it is under-appreciated, even in China, that Qigong therapy can be effective for relieving pain and treating arthritis.” – Kellen Chia

 

Arthritis is a chronic disease that most commonly affects the joints. There are over 100 different types of arthritis. Depending on the type of arthritis symptoms may include pain, stiffness, swelling, redness, and decreased range of motion. It affects an estimated 52.5 million adults in the United States. It is associated with aging as arthritis occurs in only 7% of adults ages 18–44, while 30% adults ages 45–64 are affected, and 50% of adults ages 65 or older. The pain, stiffness, and lack of mobility associate with arthritis produce fatigue and markedly reduce the quality of life of the sufferers. Arthritis can have very negative psychological effects diminishing the individual’s self-image and may lead to depression, isolation, and withdrawal from friends and social activities Arthritis reduces the individual’s ability to function at work and may require modifications of work activities which can lead to financial difficulties. It even affects the individual’s physical appearance. In addition, due to complications associated with rheumatoid arthritis, particularly cardiovascular disease, the lifespan for people with rheumatoid arthritis may be shortened by 10 years.

 

It is obvious that there is a need for a safe and effective treatment to help rheumatoid arthritis sufferers cope with the disease and its consequences. Increasing exercise has been shown to increase flexibility and mobility but many form of exercise are difficult for the arthritis sufferer to engage in and many drop out. But all that may be needed is gentle movements of the joints. Qigong or Tai Chi training are designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. They have been shown to have many physical and psychological benefits, especially for the elderly. Because They are not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and are safe, having no appreciable side effects, they are appropriate for an elderly population. So, it would seem that Qigong or Tai Chi practice would be well suited to treat arthritis in seniors.

 

In today’s Research News article “Qigong Exercise and Arthritis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5750595/ ), Marks reviewed and summarized the published research on the effectiveness of Qigong practice for the treatment of arthritis. He found that Qigong practice produced significant improvements in the musculoskeletal system including increased strength, joint flexibility, posture, balance motor function, and motor coordination, and improvements in quality of life and cognitive function. In addition, the research reported decreased pain, fatigue, and blood pressure and improved immune function, metabolic function, circulation, aerobic capacity, and reduced falls, improved psychological health, mood, and sleep.

 

These are impressive results. Scientific research suggests that Qigong practice produces  widespread improvements in mental and physical health in arthritis sufferers. In addition, it is inexpensive, convenient, appropriate for individuals of all ages and health condition and is safe to practice, making it an almost ideal treatment for the symptoms of arthritis.

 

So, improve arthritis with Qigong.

 

“Qigong focuses on relaxing the body, which over time, allows the joints and muscles to loosen up, improving the circulation of fluids and blood. The practice focuses on rebuilding overall health and strengthening the spirit, while encouraging one to change the way one looks at life in general, and at the illness affecting you.” – 1MD

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Ray Marks. Qigong Exercise and Arthritis. Medicines (Basel) 2017 Dec; 4(4): 71. Published online 2017 Sep 27. doi: 10.3390/medicines4040071

 

Abstract

Background: Arthritis is a chronic condition resulting in considerable disability, particularly in later life. Aims: The first aim of this review was to summarize and synthesize the research base concerning the use of Qigong exercises as a possible adjunctive strategy for promoting well-being among adults with arthritis. A second was to provide related intervention directives for health professionals working or who are likely to work with this population in the future. Methods: Material specifically focusing on examining the nature of Qigong for minimizing arthritis disability, pain and dependence and for improving life quality was sought. Results: Collectively, despite almost no attention to this topic, available data reveal that while more research is indicated, Qigong exercises—practiced widely in China for many centuries as an exercise form, mind-body and relaxation technique—may be very useful as an intervention strategy for adults with different forms of painful disabling arthritis. Conclusion: Health professionals working with people who have chronic arthritis can safely recommend these exercises to most adults with this condition with the expectation they will heighten the life quality of the individual, while reducing pain and depression in adults with this condition.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5750595/

Slow Age-Related Physical Decline with Tai Chi

Slow Age-Related Physical Decline with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“This peaceful type of moving meditation is primarily used to improve strength, balance, flexibility and posture. Recent studies of Tai Chi shows that this mind-body practice is able to alleviate pain, improve mood, increase immunity and support heart health.” – World Health net

 

We celebrate the increasing longevity of the population. But, aging is a mixed blessing. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline of the body and the brain. Every system in the body deteriorates including motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. It is inevitable. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. There is some hope as there is evidence that these declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline.

 

Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Tai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Only recently though have the effects of Tai Chi practice been scrutinized with empirical research. But, it has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. It appears to strengthen the immune systemreduce inflammation and increase the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream. Because Tai Chi is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Taichi Softball on Function-Related Outcomes in Older Adults: A Randomized Control Trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5397616/, Lou and colleagues recruited individuals from a senior living community (mean age 63 years) and randomly assigned them to either receive Tai Chi Softball Training for 7 weeks, four times a week, for 90 minutes each, or a no-treatment control group. Tai Chi Softball Training requires practitioners to hold a racket and control a softball on the surface of the racket while performing Tai Chi. Participants were measured before, at 7 weeks, and after training for lower limb strength and balance, and upper limb shoulder mobility, handgrip strength, and fine motor control.

 

They found that while the control group had deterioration in all measures, the participants in Tai Chi Softball Training had significant improvements in these same measures, including fine motor control, fine motor function, handgrip strength, hand and forearm strength, shoulder mobility, leg strength, and dynamic balance. The practice was found to be safe, as there were no significant adverse effects observed for participation in Tai Chi Softball Training.

 

These are wonderful results demonstrating that Tai Chi Softball Training is very effective in improving physical functional health in the elderly. This is particularly important as the progressive decline in motor ability in this group impacts their quality of life, health, and even their longevity. It would be interesting in future research to compare Tai Chi Softball Training to regular Tai Chi practice and other exercise programs to determine if one is superior to the others. Hence, Tai Chi because it is effective and gentle, is almost an ideal program for the elderly.

 

So, slow age-related physical decline with tai chi.

 

“tai chi may be an easier and more convenient than brisk walking as an anti-aging choice. Previous studies have shown tai chi also improves balance and may help boost brain functioning.” – Linda Melone

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Lou, L., Zou, L., Fang, Q., Wang, H., Liu, Y., Tian, Z., & Han, Y. (2017). Effect of Taichi Softball on Function-Related Outcomes in Older Adults: A Randomized Control Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2017, 4585424. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4585424

 

Abstract

The purpose of this present study was to examine the effect of Taichi softball (TCSB) on physical function in Chinese older adults. Eighty Chinese older adults were randomly assigned into either an experimental group experiencing four 90-minute TCSB sessions weekly for seven consecutive weeks or a control group. At baseline and 7 weeks later, all participants were asked to perform physical functional tests for both lower and upper limbs. Multiple separate Analyses of Variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures were applied to evaluate the effects of TCSB on function-related outcomes between baseline and postintervention in the two groups. The findings indicate that a short-term and intensive TCSB training program does not only improve low limb-related physical function such as dynamic balance and leg strength, but also strengthen upper limb-related physical function (e.g., arm and forearm strength, shoulder mobility, fine motor control, handgrip strength, and fine motor function). Health professionals could take into account TCSB exercise as an alternative method to help maintain or alleviate the inevitable age-related physical function degeneration in healthy older adults. In addition, researchers could investigate the effect of TCSB exercise on physical function in special populations such as patients with different chronic diseases or neurological disorder (e.g., Parkinson’s disease).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5397616/

Improve Health with Qigong

Improve Health with Qigong

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Qigong is an ancient Chinese system of exercise and meditation that makes the mind and spirit tranquil, improves performance in sports, and cultivates health, well-being, and long life.” – Annie Bond

 

Qigong and Tai Chi have been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevityQigong and Tai Chi trainings are designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through controlled breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Only recently though have the effects of these practices been scrutinized with empirical research. This research has found that they are effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. They appear to strengthen the immune systemreduce inflammation and increase the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream, improve cardiovascular healthreduce arthritis painimprove balance and reduce falls. They also appear to improve attentional ability and relieve depression.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Baduanjin Qigong for Health Benefits: Randomized Controlled Trials.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5359459/

Zou and colleagues review the published research literature on the effects of one particular Qigong practice, Baduanjin Qigong, on health.  Baduanjin Qigong involves only 8 simple movements and “is characterized by interplay between symmetrical physical postures and movements, mind, and breathing exercise in a harmonious manner.” They discovered 19 published randomized controlled trials employing adults. About 1/3 of the participants were healthy and 2/3 were ill with a variety of diseases including “type 2 diabetes mellitus, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, hypertension, knee osteoarthritis, and chronic fatigue syndrome-like illness.”

 

The published research revealed that Baduanjin Qigong produced significant improvements in quality of life (6 studies), sleep quality (6 studies), balance (6 studies), handgrip strength (5 studies), trunk and hip flexibility (4 studies), leg power (2 studies), walking performance (2 studies), systolic and diastolic blood pressures (9 studies), respiratory efficiency (6 studies), and cardiorespiratory endurance (4 studies). The small number of studies (2) that measured leg power and walking performance makes conclusions about these improvements tentative. But, the rest of the improvements would appear to be solid findings of a magnitude to be considered of clinical significance.

 

These are exciting results. The range of different areas of physical improvement produced by Baduanjin Qigong and the range of illnesses improved are impressive. Since, this ancient gentle practice is completely safe, can be used with the elderly and sickly, is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility or even public park, and can be quickly learned as only 8 movements are involved, it would appear to be an excellent treatment for sickly individuals, especially the elderly. It remains to be seen how effective Baduanjin Qigong might be for mental and emotional problems.

 

So, improve health with qigong.

 

“Sometimes Qigong and Tai Chi are called a moving meditation in which the mind and body are led to a state of balance and equilibrium also known as homeostasis. A Harvard medical publication said it should also be called “moving medication.” The advantages of improving strength, flexibility and balance are pretty obvious but the advantages of peace that comes from the moving flowing meditative aspect of Qigong and Tai Chi are equally important.” – Denise Nagel

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Zou, L., SasaKi, J. E., Wang, H., Xiao, Z., Fang, Q., & Zhang, M. (2017). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Baduanjin Qigong for Health Benefits: Randomized Controlled Trials. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2017, 4548706. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4548706

 

Abstract

Objective. To investigate the effects of practicing Baduanjin Qigong on different health outcomes. Methods. Six electronic databases were used for literature search through entering the following key words: Baduanjin Qigong, quality of life, sleep quality, and health-related outcomes. Results. Nineteen randomized controlled trials were used for meta-analysis. The aggregated results from this systematic review have shown significant benefits in favour of Baduanjin Qigong on quality of life (SMD, −0.75; 95% CI −1.26 to −0.24; P = 0.004), sleep quality (SMD, −0.55; 95% CI −0.97 to −0.12; P = 0.01), balance (SMD, −0.94; 95% CI −1.59 to 0.30; P = 0.004), handgrip strength (SMD, −0.69; 95% CI −1.2 to −0.19; P = 0.007), trunk flexibility (SMD, −0.66; 95% CI −1.13 to −0.19; P = 0.006), systolic (SMD, −0.60; 95% CI −0.94 to −0.27; P = 0.0004) and diastolic blood pressure (SMD, −0.46; 95% CI −0.73 to −0.20; P = 0.0005), and resting heart rate (SMD, −0.87; 95% CI −1.47 to −0.27; P = 0.005). The aggregated results of meta-analyses examining the effect of Baduanjin Qigong on leg power, cardiopulmonary endurance, and pulmonary function remain unclear because of a small number of studies. Conclusions. The aggregated results from this systematic review show that Baduanjin Qigong practice is beneficial for quality of life, sleep quality, balance, handgrip strength, trunk flexibility, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and resting heart rate. Further studies are necessary to confirm the effects of Baduanjin Qigong on leg power, cardiopulmonary endurance, and pulmonary function (e.g., vital capacity), while considering a long-term follow-up.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5359459/

Improve Balance in the Elderly by Uncoupling Posture and Respiration with Tai Chi

Improve Balance in the Elderly by Uncoupling Posture and Respiration with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

“Practising the ancient martial art of Tai Chi is so beneficial to elderly people’s health that it should be “the preferred mode of training”, according to scientists.” – The Telegraph

 

The process of aging affects every aspect of the physical and cognitive domains. Every system in the body deteriorates including motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. Impaired balance is a particular problem as it can lead to falls. In the U.S. one third of people over 65 fall each year and 2.5 million are treated in emergency rooms for injuries produced by falls. About 1% of falls result in deaths making it the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly. Falls, with or without injury, also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults, fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness. It is obviously important to discover methods to improve balance and decrease the number of fall in the elderly.

 

An interesting contributor to imbalance is the synchronization of respiration with postural sway. When a person stands erect, with eyes closed, there is a normal sway in the posture. When respiration occurs the expansion of the abdomen and chest produces a slight shift in the center of gravity and the body sways to compensate. When the normal sway becomes synchronized with the sway produced by respiration, it results in an exaggeration of the sway. This produces a greater imbalance. This is usually minor and of very little consequence. But, in the elderly, with compromised balance and muscular control, the small extra imbalance may be a contributor to falls.

 

Tai Chi training is designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. It includes balance training and has been shown to improve balance and coordination. Indeed, Tai Chi training has been shown to reduce the likelihood of falls in the elderly. One possible way that Tai Chi training may contribute to the decrease in falls is by decreasing posturo-respiratory synchronization. This interesting speculation has not been previously investigated.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi training reduced coupling between respiration and postural control.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4695235/

Holmes and colleagues investigate the effect of Tai Chi training on posturo-respiratory synchronization. They recruited healthy males and females over 70 years of age and randomly assigned them to receive either Tai Chi training or education. Tai Chi training consisted of 12 weeks of instructor led group training for one hour, twice a week. The education condition involved health related lectures on the same schedule as the Tai Chi training. Before and after training the elderly were measured for postural sway, respiration and posturo-respiratory synchronization.

 

They found that after training neither group showed a change in postural sway or in respiration. Although the two groups did not differ in posturo-respiratory synchronization before training, after training the Tai Chi had significantly smaller posturo-respiratory synchronization than they did during baseline and in comparison to the education group. Hence, Tai Chi training reduced the contribution of posturo-respiratory synchronization to imbalance in the elderly. This may be one of the mechanisms by which Tai Chi training improves balance and reduces falls in the elderly.

 

Falls become more and more likely with age and the consequences of falls to the elderly can be devastating. So, a practice that can lower the risk of falls is important for the health and well-being of the elderly. Tai Chi is not strenuous, involves slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects. So, it is well suited as an exercise for an elderly population. In addition, once learned it can be practiced at home or in groups, making it a flexible very low cost solution. Hence, it appears that Tai Chi should be recommended to the elderly to improve balance and reduce falls and thereby improve the health and well-being of the elderly.

 

So, improve balance in the elderly by uncoupling posture and respiration with tai chi.

 

“One of the greatest benefits of Tai Chi for the elderly is that even individuals who have physical limitations can practice this ancient healing art. Because it is comprised of a series of slow, relaxed movements, Tai chi is a non-strenuous activity that will not put added strain on weakened muscles. Tai Chi movements help encourage proper posture and rely on constant gentle movements that force the individual to concentrate and breathe deeply, two important techniques that are often overlooked in the elderly community.” – Delialah Falcon

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Holmes, M. L., Manor, B., Hsieh, W., Hu, K., Lipsitz, L. A., & Li, L. (2016). Tai Chi training reduced coupling between respiration and postural control. Neuroscience Letters, 610, 60–65. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2015.10.053

 

 

  • Tai Chi training did not affect average sway speed& magnitude or respiratory rate
  • Yet tai Chi training reduced the impact of respiration on postural sway
  • The effects of Tai Chi on postural control could be optimized system interaction

Abstract

In order to maintain stable upright stance, the postural control system must account for the continuous perturbations to the body’s center-of-mass including those caused by spontaneous respiration. Both aging and disease increase “posturo-respiratory synchronization;” which reflects the degree to which respiration affects postural sway fluctuations over time. Tai Chi training emphasizes the coordination of respiration and bodily movements and may therefore optimize the functional interaction between these two systems. The purpose of the project was to examine the effect of Tai Chi training on the interaction between respiration and postural control in older adults. We hypothesized that Tai Chi training would improve the ability of the postural control system to compensate for respiratory perturbations and thus, reduce posturo-respiratory synchronization. Participants were recruited from supportive housing facilities and randomized to a 12-week Tai Chi intervention (n=28; 86±5yrs) or educational-control program (n=34, 85±6yrs). Standing postural sway and respiration were simultaneously recorded with a force plate and respiratory belt under eyes-open and eyes-closed conditions. Posturo-respiratory synchronization was determined by quantifying the variation of the phase relationship between the dominant oscillatory mode of respiration and corresponding oscillations within postural sway. Groups were similar in age, gender distribution, height, body mass, and intervention compliance. Neither intervention altered average sway speed, sway magnitude or respiratory rate. As compared to the education-control group, however, Tai Chi training reduced posturo-respiratory synchronization when standing with eyes open or closed (p<0.001). Tai Chi training did not affect traditional parameters of standing postural control or respiration, yet reduced the coupling between respiration and postural control. The beneficial effects of Tai Chi training may therefore stem in part from optimization of this multi-system interaction.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4695235/

 

Reduce Falls in the Elderly with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Tai Chi is a sophisticated form of whole body Neuromuscular/skeletal movement re-education. With good use, the body moves easily – with balance and coordination; both mental and physical. Initially developed as a martial art, it has now become more widely practiced as an exercise for health and well-being. Its use of natural rotational, as well as linear movements, have placed this well above other falls training methods.” – Mark Peters

 

The process of aging affects every aspect of the physical and cognitive domains. Every system in the body deteriorates including motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. Impaired balance is a particular problem as it can lead to falls. In the U.S. one third of people over 65 fall each year and 2.5 million are treated in emergency rooms for injuries produced by falls. About 1% of falls result in deaths making it the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly. Falls, with or without injury, also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness. It is obviously important to investigate methods to improve balance and decrease the number of fall in the elderly.

 

Tai Chi training is designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. It includes balance training and has been shown to improve balance and coordination. Because it is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for an elderly population. So, it would seem that tai chi practice would be well suited to improving balance and coordination in seniors and thereby reduce the likelihood of falls.

 

In today’s Research News article “Implementing an Evidence-Based Fall Prevention Program in an Outpatient Clinical Setting.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1265719523451971/?type=3&theater

or below or view the full text of the study at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4707656/

Li and colleagues recruited a large group (379) of seniors (> 65 years of age) who were deemed at risk for falls by their primary care physicians. They delivered a tai chi program that was designed to optimize balance for two one-hour sessions per week for 24 weeks. During the 24 weeks of the program 119 participants reported 261 falls. There was a significant reduction in the number of falls over the 6-month course of the program. For the month prior to the training the participants reported 0.5 falls per month while that number fell to 0.13 during the program. By the end of the program the fall rate declined to 0.05 per month.

 

Hence, they found clear evidence that tai chi practice reduces the incidence of falls in an at-risk population of elderly. These are excellent and important findings. It should be kept in mind, however, that the study did not include a control comparison condition. So, the results could be due to subject expectancy (placebo) effects. But, with this caveat, the results are very encouraging.

 

The marked reduction in falls suggests that seniors who practice tai chi will be a substantially less risk of injury from falling. This should not only improve health but also relieve a degree of the fear of falling. This should improve the quality of life and reduce consequent psychological problems. Hence, the practice should be of great benefit to the elderly. In addition, the safe and gentle exercise nature of tai chi practice make it well suited to the elderly. It can also be delivered very inexpensively as it can be taught in large groups and after training practiced at home or in a group without an instructor.

 

So, reduce falls in the elderly with tai chi.

 

“problems arise as the elderly become increasing frail, their senses and muscles degrade, and their ability to react to a slip is delayed enough that they can’t stop themselves from falling. Understanding the process helps inform the treatments . . . traditional interventions such as exercise and new glasses are effective. The Chinese martial art of tai chi is considered particularly helpful in improving balance and reducing falls.“ – Thurmon Lockhart

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Li, F., Harmer, P., Stock, R., Fitzgerald, K., Stevens, J., Gladieux, M., … Voit, J. (2013). Implementing an Evidence-Based Fall Prevention Program in an Outpatient Clinical Setting. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 61(12), 2142–2149. http://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.12509

 

Abstract

Objectives: Few evidence-based fall prevention programs have been evaluated for adoption in clinical settings. This study investigated the dissemination potential of a Tai Ji Quan-based program, previously shown efficacious for reducing risk of falls in older adults, through outpatient clinical settings.

Design: A single-group pre-post design in which participants attended a twice weekly Tai Ji Quan training program for 24 weeks.

Setting: Communities in Lane County, Oregon.

Participants: Referral patients (N = 379) aged 65 and older living independently.

Measurements: Using the RE-AIM framework, the primary outcome was the proportion of participating healthcare providers who made referrals. Secondary outcomes were the proportion of referred patients agreeing to participate and enrolling in the program, and measures of program implementation, maintenance, and effectiveness (on measures of falls, balance, gait, physical performance, and balance efficacy).

Results: Of the 252 providers invited to participate, 157 made referrals (62% adoption rate). Of 564 patients referred, 379 (67% reach) enrolled in the program, which was successfully implemented in senior/community centers with good fidelity. Of the total number of participants, 283 completed the program (75% retention) and 212 of these attended ≥75% of the total (48) sessions. Participants reported a reduction in falls with an incidence rate of 0.13 falls per person-month and showed significant improvement from baseline in all outcome measures. A 3-month post-intervention follow-up indicated encouraging levels of program maintenance among providers, patients, and community centers.

Conclusion: A protocol to refer patients at increased risk of falling to a Tai Ji Quan-based program was successfully implemented among healthcare providers. The evidence-based program appears readily scalable and exportable with potential for substantial clinical and public health impact.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4707656/

Improve Athletic Flexibility and Balance with Yoga

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“She was injury-free because of yoga, stretching her body into difficult positions. “I’ve never seen such an improvement in my game, the difference it makes. I’m quicker, more nimble. Instead of being tighter, I’m more relaxed, more comfortable.” – Brenna Wise

 

Yoga practice has been shown to have a myriad of benefits for psychological and physical health. It is a mind-body practice that stresses both mental attention to present moment movements, breath control, and flexibility, range of motion, and balance. It can be practiced by anyone from children to seniors. Recently, there have been a number of high profile athletes who have adopted a yoga practice to improve their athletic performance. But, does yoga actually help elite athletes to perform at an even higher level? The ability of yoga to improve balance would seem to be a natural help for the athlete and the improvement in flexibility could well help the athlete resist injury.

 

In today’s Research News article “Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1222473291109928/?type=3&theater

or below or view the full text of the study at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728955/

Polsgrove, Eggleston, and Lockyer randomly assigned male college soccer and baseball players to yoga training or control groups. Both groups received their typical athletic workouts throughout the study. But, in addition, the yoga group were trained in yoga postures twice a week in one-hour sessions.

 

The yoga group had significant improvements in both flexibility and balance. Flexibility increased 21% in tests of shoulder flexibility and sit-reach. Balance was improved 32% in the stork-stand, a common yoga pose. In contrast, the control group declined in all measures. Joint angle measurements revealed that the yoga group had significant improvement in ankle dorsiflexion, hip and knee extension, and shoulder and knee flexion. Hence, yoga training appeared to produce significant improvements in balance, flexibility, and the range of joint movement.

 

These are important changes in the physical abilities of the athletes. Although logically, these improvements would be expected to translate to improved athletic performance and lower occurrence of sports injuries, this was not investigated in the present study and remains for future research. It should be mentioned that the yoga training used emphasized the physical aspects of yoga. Mental discipline is also very important for athletic performance. It seems reasonable that future research should also include various aspects of the mental training that occurs in a typical yoga training.

 

Regardless, improve athletic flexibility and balance with yoga.

 

“I wanted my body to feel that way all the time. I became looser, and I only missed one game due to injury. It helped me remain injury-free, and helped my agility and athleticism.” – Eric Stutz

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Study Summary

Polsgrove, M. J., Eggleston, B. M., & Lockyer, R. J. (2016). Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes. International Journal of Yoga, 9(1), 27–34. http://doi.org/10.4103/0973-6131.171710

 

Abstract

Background:

With clearer evidence of its benefits, coaches, and athletes may better see that yoga has a role in optimizing performance.

Aims:

To determine the impact of yoga on male college athletes (N = 26).

Methods:

Over a 10-week period, a yoga group (YG) of athletes (n = 14) took part in biweekly yoga sessions; while a nonyoga group (NYG) of athletes (n = 12) took part in no additional yoga activity. Performance measures were obtained immediately before and after this period. Measurements of flexibility and balance, included: Sit-reach (SR), shoulder flexibility (SF), and stork stand (SS); dynamic measurements consisted of joint angles (JA) measured during the performance of three distinct yoga positions (downward dog [DD]; right foot lunge [RFL]; chair [C]).

Results:

Significant gains were observed in the YG for flexibility (SR, P = 0.01; SF, P = 0.03), and balance (SS, P = 0.05). No significant differences were observed in the NYG for flexibility and balance. Significantly, greater JA were observed in the YG for: RFL (dorsiflexion, l-ankle; P = 0.04), DD (extension, r-knee, P = 0.04; r-hip; P = 0.01; flexion, r-shoulder; P = 0.01) and C (flexion, r-knee; P = 0.01). Significant JA differences were observed in the NYG for: DD (flexion, r-knee, P = 0.01: r-hip, P = 0.05; r-shoulder, P = 0.03) and C (flexion r-knee, P = 0.01; extension, r-shoulder; P = 0.05). A between group comparison revealed the significant differences for: RFL (l-ankle; P = 0.01), DD (r-knee, P = 0.01; r-hip; P = 0.01), and C (r-shoulder, P = 0.02).

Conclusions:

Results suggest that a regular yoga practice may increase the flexibility and balance as well as whole body measures of male college athletes and therefore, may enhance athletic performances that require these characteristics.

 

Improve Physical and Cognitive Function with Tai Chi

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Because Tai Chi may impact cognitive function via a diverse and potentially synergistic set of mechanistic pathways, it is plausible that it may offer benefits superior to interventions that target only single pathways (e.g., aerobic training or stress reduction alone)” – Peter Wayne

 

The process of aging affects every aspect of the physical and cognitive domains. Every system in the body deteriorates including motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. Impaired balance is a particular problem as it can lead to falls. In the U.S. one third of people over 65 fall each year and 2.5 million are treated in emergency rooms for injuries produced by falls. About 1% of falls result in deaths making it the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly. It is obviously important to investigate methods to improve balance and decrease the number of fall in the elderly.

 

Perhaps more troubling than the physical decline is the mental deterioration that occurs with aging. This is called age related cognitive decline and includes decreases in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. This occurs to everyone as they age, but to varying degrees. Some deteriorate into a dementia, while others maintain high levels of cognitive capacity into very advanced ages. It is estimated that around 30% of the elderly show significant age related cognitive decline. But, remember that this also means that 70% of the elderly retain reasonable levels of cognitive ability.

 

It is, therefore, important to investigate methods to slow the mental decline during aging. Some promising methods are contemplative practices which have been shown to restrain age related declines. One particularly promising method is the ancient eastern practice of Tai Chi. It is particularly promising due to the fact that it is both a physical and a mental practice. Indeed, tai chi practice has been shown to slow cognitive decline in aging.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Tai Chi and Western Exercise on Physical and Cognitive Functioning in Healthy Community-Dwelling Older Adults”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1177689028921688/?type=3&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4699673/

Taylor-Piliae and colleagues randomly assigned sedentary adults over 60 years of age to either a tai chi practice, a physical exercise program, or attention (healthy aging) training. Training occurred twice a week in 90-minute classes and three times per week in home practices. They measured the physical and mental capabilities of the participants at 6 and 12 months of training. They found that both the tai chi and exercise groups improved in both flexibility and balance in comparison to the control condition. At 6 months the tai chi group was superior with balance while the exercise group was superior in flexibility, but at 12 months the two groups were equivalently superior to the control group in both flexibility and balance. In contrast, only the tai chi group demonstrated improved levels of cognitive function including memory and semantic fluency at both 6 and 12 months.

 

These results suggest that both tai chi and exercise are effective in slowing the physical decline with aging but tai chi has the added benefit of also slowing the cognitive decline. Since tai chi is safe, with no known adverse effects, and a gentle practice it is very appropriate for an aging population. Also, since it can be taught and practiced in groups and easily maintained at home, it is a very inexpensive intervention. This makes it almost ideal for aging individuals on fixed incomes.

 

The results suggest that tai chi practice may be helpful in preventing falls as a result of improvement in balance and flexibility and slow the mental decline with aging. This indicates that tai chi practice should be recommended for elderly individuals to help maintain their physical and mental abilities. So, improve physical and cognitive function with tai chi.

 

“There is growing evidence that Tai Chi can significantly reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and improve cognitive function.” – Exercise Medicine Australia

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Yoga Helps the Blind Maintain Balance

“One of the many misconceptions about the blind is that they have greater hearing, sense of smell and sense of touch than sighted people. This is not strictly true. Their blindness simply forces them to recognize gifts they always had but had heretofore largely ignored. – Rosemary Mahoney
Falls are a standard of slapstick comedy and Americas Funniest Home Videos. But, falls are far from funny. They can cause serious injury and even death. “One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury. Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries. Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture. Each year at least 250,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling,6 usually by falling sideways. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are $34 billion annually.” (Centers for Disease Control). Approximately 9,500 deaths in older Americans are associated with falls each year, making falls the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 and older.

 

Physical and sensory fitness and balance are important for the prevention of falls. The visual system is particularly important for maintaining balance and avoiding obstacles. Hence, it is not surprising that the visually impaired are 1.7 times more likely to have a fall and 1.9 times more likely to have multiple falls compared with fully sighted populations. The odds of a hip fracture are between 1.3 and 1.9 times greater for those with reduced visual acuity. So, finding methods to improve balance in the visually impaired may greatly reduce falls and subsequent injury.

 

Yoga has been shown to improve muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/11/improve-physical-health-with-yoga/) and to improve balance (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/12/26/improve-physical-well-being-with-bikram-yoga/). So, it would seem reasonable to predict that yoga training may improve coordination, flexibility, and balance in the visually impaired and as a result reduce injuries.

 

In today’s Research News article “Ashtanga-Based Yoga Therapy Increases the Sensory Contribution to Postural Stability in Visually-Impaired Persons at Risk for Falls as Measured by the Wii Balance Board: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1159236467433611/?type=3&theater

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0129646

Jeter and colleagues developed and pilot tested a yoga program for the legally blind and compared the results to those obtained from a wait-list control group. The participants practiced yoga once a week with an instructor and twice a week at home for eight weeks. As expected yoga produced an increase in lower body strength and flexibility. Using a balance on an unstable platform test they found that after yoga training the blind participants were better able to use somatosensory and vestibular information to maintain balance.

 

These findings suggest that yoga improves blind individuals physically and increases their balance by making them more sensitive to the information provided by touch and by the balance (vestibular) system. There was no direct test of propensity to fall, but the results suggest that the yoga training would improve balance and thereby lower the likelihood of a fall. It will take further research to directly test this conclusion.

 

It is clear, however, that yoga can improve sensitivity of the tactile and vestibular stimuli that are important for balance. So, practice yoga to improve balance in the blind.
“To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable.”

John Milton
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies