The Harvard Medical School Health Publications newsletter had an interesting feature in May on Tai Chi. In fact, Harvard has a special division called the Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Program.
Mainstream acceptance of alternative health practices is a key development. When promoted by an institution such as Harvard, the foundation is put into place for further investigation.
Here are a few excerpts from their newsletter:
"Tai chi is often described as 'meditation in motion,' but it might well be called 'medication in motion.' There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can get started even if you aren't in top shape or the best of health.
A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for tai chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age," says Peter M. Wayne, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Program at Harvard Medical School's Osher Research Center.
Muscle strength. In a 2006 study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Stanford University researchers reported benefits of tai chi in 39 women and men, average age 66, with below-average fitness and at least one cardiovascular risk factor. After taking 36 tai chi classes in 12 weeks, they showed improvement in both lower-body strength (measured by the number of times they could rise from a chair in 30 seconds) and upper-body strength (measured by their ability to do arm curls).
Flexibility. Women in the 2006 Stanford study significantly boosted upper- and lower-body flexibility as well as strength.Source: The Health Benefits of Tai Chi: Harvard Health Publications, May 2009.
Balance. Tai chi improves balance and, according to some studies, reduces falls. Proprioception — the ability to sense the position of one's body in space — declines with age. Tai chi helps train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments.