In a group of young people, investigators compared tai chi with brisk walking or no exercise and found that the group performing tai chi saw an increase in a type of stem cell important to a number of the body’s functions and structures.
The yearlong retrospective cross-sectional study was designed to compare the rejuvenating and anti-aging effects of tai chi.
“We used young volunteers because they have better cell-renewing abilities than the old population and we also wanted to avoid having chronic diseases and medications as interfering factors,” said Shinn-Zong Lin, M.D., Ph.D.
The study was published in the journal Cell Transplantation.
According to the authors, tai chi “has been confirmed to benefit” patients with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease and fibromyalgia. In addition, they cite possible advantages of tai chi in pain reduction, fall prevention and balance improvement, aerobic capacity, blood pressure, quality of life and stress reduction.
“Compared with the no exercise group, the tai chi group had a significantly higher number of CD 34+ stem cells,” wrote the authors. “We found that the CD34+ cell count of the tai chi group was significantly higher than the brisk walking group.”
The CD 34+ cells express the CD 34 protein and are “cluster markers” for blood stem cells involved in cell self-renewal, differentiation and proliferation.
“It is possible that tai chi may prompt vasodilation and increase blood flow,” said Lin.
“Considering that brisk walking may require a larger space or more equipment, tai chi seems to be an easier and more convenient choice of anti-aging exercise.”
“This study provides the first step into providing scientific evidence for the possible health benefits of tai chi,” said Paul R. Sanberg, Ph.D., distinguished professor at the University of South Florida, Tampa, Fla.
“Further study of how tai chi can elicit benefit in different populations and on different parameters of aging are necessary to determine its full impact.”