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: ), 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+ 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



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.

Mindfulness is Associated with Reduced Inflexibility and Psychopathology in Adolescents

Mindfulness is Associated with Reduced Inflexibility and Psychopathology in Adolescents


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“As present-moment focused, mindfulness, acceptance, and defusion interventions alter the context, behavioral flexibility emerges and, with it, increased sensitivity to context, including that aspect of context we call consequences.” – Kelly Wilson


Adolescence should be a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. It is during this time that higher levels of thinking, sometimes called executive function, develops. These executive functions are an important foundation for success in the complex modern world. But, adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required.


Making these profound changes successfully requires a good deal or flexibility, adapting and changing with the physical, psychological, and social changes of adolescence. In today’s Research News article “Inflexible Youngsters: Psychological and Psychopathological Correlates of the Avoidance and Fusion Questionnaire for Youths in Nonclinical Dutch Adolescents.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Muris and colleagues examined the relationships between mindfulness, inflexibility and mental health in adolescents. They recruited youths aged 12 to 16 years and had them complete measures of mindfulness, psychological inflexibility, thought suppression self-compassion, self-worth, self-efficacy, somatization, psychopathological symptoms, anxiety, depression, and aggression.


They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of inflexibility, thought suppression, somatization, anxiety, depression, emotional problems, aggression, oppositional conduct, and the higher the levels of self-worth and self-efficacy. They also found that psychological inflexibility was inversely related to the same variables, with higher levels of inflexibility associated with higher levels of thought suppression, somatization, anxiety, depression, emotional problems, aggression, oppositional conduct, and the lower the levels of self-worth and self-efficacy. In other words, mindfulness was associated with positive mental health while inflexibility was associated with negative mental health in these youths.


They further investigated the effectiveness of psychological inflexibility to affect the mental health of the adolescents while holding mindfulness mathematically constant. They found that each had independent contributions to the levels of anxiety and depression, with mindfulness associated with lower values and inflexibility associated with higher values. So, mindfulness and psychological inflexibility appear to be independently associated with emotional health in adolescents.


It is important to keep in mind that this study was correlational and did not manipulate the levels of any variables. So, causal connections cannot be determined between the variables. The associations though suggest that both mindfulness and psychological flexibility are important contributors to the psychological development of adolescents. It will be interesting to investigate in future research whether training in mindfulness and flexibility will help to promote healthy mental health in youths.


“While psychological inflexibility was most strongly associated with Neuroticism , as expected, mindfulness demonstrated the strongest association with consciousness, a trait reflecting impulse control abilities and attention to detail.” – Robert Latzman


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Muris, P., Meesters, C., Herings, A., Jansen, M., Vossen, C., & Kersten, P. (2017). Inflexible Youngsters: Psychological and Psychopathological Correlates of the Avoidance and Fusion Questionnaire for Youths in Nonclinical Dutch Adolescents. Mindfulness, 8(5), 1381–1392.



The present study examined psychological and psychopathological correlates of psychological inflexibility as measured by the Avoidance and Fusion Questionnaire for Youth (AFQ-Y) in two independent samples of nonclinical Dutch adolescents aged between 12 and 18 years (Ns being 184 and 157). Participants completed a survey containing the AFQ-Y and scales assessing mindfulness, thought suppression, self-compassion, self-worth, self-efficacy, and internalizing/externalizing symptoms. In both samples, the AFQ-Y was found to be a reliable measure of psychological inflexibility that correlated in a theoretically meaningful way with other psychological constructs. Most importantly, AFQ-Y scores correlated positively with internalizing and externalizing symptoms, and in most cases, these associations remained significant when controlling for other measures. These findings suggest that psychological inflexibility is an important factor in youth psychopathology that needs to be further investigated in future research.

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:

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+ 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.



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.

ACT to Improve Psychological Flexibility and Chronic Pain

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Hence, the ultimate goal of ACT is not to reduce symptoms or pain (although other simultaneous therapies may well be aimed at achieving this). Instead, its goal is to improve functioning by increasing psychological flexibility and the ability to act according to personal values, even in the presence of negative experiences, like pain.” – Painfocus


We all have to deal with pain. It’s inevitable, but hopefully mild and short lived. For many, however, pain is a constant in their lives. Chronic pain affects a wide swath of humanity.  At least 100 million adult Americans have common chronic pain conditions. It affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. Chronic pain accompanies a number of conditions. The most common forms are low back pain, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia.


The most common treatment for chronic pain is drugs. These include over-the-counter analgesics and opioids. But opioids are dangerous and prescription opioid overdoses kill more than 14,000 people annually. Fortunately, there are alternative treatments. Mindfulness and yoga practices have been shown to improve pain. A therapeutic technique that includes mindfulness training called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has been shown to be effective in treating a number of physical and psychological disorders and has been shown to successfully improve acceptance of chronic pain, pain intensity, satisfaction with life, and physical functioning in patients with chronic pain.


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness based psychotherapy technique that focuses on the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior and how they interact to impact their psychological and physical well-being. ACT employs mindfulness practices to increase awareness and develop an attitude of acceptance and compassion in the presence of painful thoughts and feelings. Additionally, it teaches individuals to “just notice”, accept and embrace private experiences and focus on behavioral responses that produce more desirable outcomes. At its core, ACT is targeted at increasing psychological flexibility, which is an ability to modify behavior based upon conscious and open contact with thoughts, feelings, and sensory experiences, and in a manner that reflects the individual’s values and goals.


In today’s Research News article “A Comprehensive Examination of Changes in Psychological Flexibility Following Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Chronic Pain.” See:

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

Scott and colleagues examine the relationship of changes in psychological flexibility to improvements in chronic pain produced by Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). They recruited patients who suffered from chronic pain of various types, with lower back pain the most common (43%). They were treated 4 days per week for four weeks with a group based ACT therapy. Before and after treatment they were measured for pain intensity, pain acceptance, daily functioning, depression, cognitive fusion, decentering, and goal directed activity.


They found that ACT was quite effective in improving chronic pain symptoms. It produced a large significant improvement in depression, moderate improvements in pain intensity, physical and social functioning, and chronic pain acceptance, and small improvements in goal directed activity and decentering. They further found that the processes of psychological flexibility, including chronic pain acceptance, cognitive fusion, and goal directed activity significantly predicted the magnitude of the improvements in the chronic pain symptoms. Hence, it appears that ACT increases psychological flexibility and as a result improves chronic pain.


It is important to identify how a particular therapy has its effects upon the disorder. This allows for improvements in the techniques and maximization of its effects. The fact that psychological flexibility was the key change produced by ACT suggests that future efforts should be to modify ACT to maximize its impact on psychological flexibility.


So, ACT to improve psychological flexibility and chronic pain.


“Mindfulness teaches people with chronic pain to be curious about the intensity of their pain, instead of letting their minds jump into thoughts like “This is awful.” It also teaches individuals to let go of goals and expectations. When you expect something will ease your pain, and it doesn’t or not as much as you’d like, your mind goes into alarm- or solution-mode. You start thinking thoughts like “nothing ever works.” “What we want to do as best as we can is to engage with the pain just as it is.” It’s not about achieving a certain goal – like minimizing pain – but learning to relate to your pain differently.” – Elisha Goldstein


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+


Study Summary

Scott, W., Hann, K. E. J., & McCracken, L. M. (2016). A Comprehensive Examination of Changes in Psychological Flexibility Following Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Chronic Pain. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 46, 139–148.



Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) for chronic pain aims to improve patient functioning by fostering greater psychological flexibility. While promising, ACT treatment process research in the context of chronic pain so far has only focused on a few of the processes of psychological flexibility. Therefore, this study aimed to more comprehensively examine changes in processes of psychological flexibility following an ACT-based treatment for chronic pain, and to examine change in these processes in relation to improvements in patient functioning. Individuals with chronic pain attending an interdisciplinary ACT-based rehabilitation program completed measures of pain, functioning, depression, pain acceptance, cognitive fusion, decentering, and committed action at pre- and post-treatment and during a nine-month follow-up. Significant improvements were observed from pre- to post-treatment and pre-treatment to follow-up on each of the treatment outcome and process variables. Regression analyses indicated that change in psychological flexibility processes cumulatively explained 6–27 % of the variance in changes in functioning and depression over both assessment periods, even after controlling for changes in pain intensity. Further research is needed to maximize the effectiveness of ACT for chronic pain, and to determine whether larger improvements in the processes of psychological flexibility under study will produce better patient outcomes, as predicted by the psychological flexibility model.

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:

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

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.




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


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


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]).


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).


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.


Promote Physical and Mental Well-Being with Tai Chi


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Tai Chi exercise had positive effects on the self-assessed physical and mental health of college students. Scores on the mental health dimension appeared to be particularly sensitive to change. Colleges/universities might consider offering Tai Chi as a component of their ongoing physical activity programs available to students.” – Y. T. Wang


Many people have fond memories of their college years. It is likely, however, that they forgot about the stress and angst of those years. The truth is that college is generally very stressful for most students, from the uncertainty of freshman year, to the social stresses of emerging adulthood, to the anxiety of launching into a career after senior year. Evidence for the difficulties of these years can be found in college counseling centers which are swamped with troubled students. In fact, it’s been estimated that half of all college students report significant levels of anxiety and depression.


Being able to perform at an optimum level is important in college. It would be very helpful if a

safe and effective way could be found to reduce stress, depression and anxiety in college students. Mindfulness training has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression . So, mindfulness training would appear to be well suited to deal with the problems of college students. The ancient eastern practice of mindful movement Tai Chi has been shown to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. Hence, it would make sense to investigate whether Tai Chi practice might be effective for improving college student angst.


In today’s Research News article “A systematic review of the health benefits of Tai Chi for students in higher education”

Webster and colleagues review the published literature on the effectiveness of Tai Chi practice in improving college student physical and psychological states. They found that that the preponderance of evidence in the literature reported that Tai Chi practice significantly improved muscular flexibility. But the most interesting effects were in the psychological domain with Tai Chi practice significantly reducing depression, anxiety, symptoms of compulsion, somatization symptoms, hostility, and symptoms of phobia, and improved interpersonal sensitivity.


Hence, the published scientific literature suggests that Tai Chi practice can be of significant benefit for college students, improving them physically and improving their psychological well-being. Tai Chi practice is a gentle mindful movement practice. It is safe, having few if any adverse consequences, and effective with college students. This suggests that the engagement in Tai Chi practice should be encouraged in college promoting the physical and mental well-being of the students.



“Of all the exercises, I should say that T’ai Chi is the best. It can ward off disease, banish worry and tension, bring improved physical health and prolong life. It is a good hobby for your whole life, the older you are, the better. It is suitable for everyone – the weak, the sick, the aged, children, the disabled and blind. It is also an economical exercise. As long as one has three square feet of space, one can take a trip to paradise and stay there to enjoy life for thirty minutes without spending a single cent.” ~T.T. Liang


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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”

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