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Tai Chi Infection Protection

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By: Ivanhoe Broadcast News

A new study shows Tai Chi Chih — a variant form of Tai Chi — can boost seniors' immunity to the shingles virus. Shingles is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles occurs in people who have had chickenpox and represents a reactivation of the dormant varicella-zoster virus. The disease generally affects the elderly, although it occasionally occurs in younger and/or immunodeficient individuals. The first sign is usually a tingling feeling, itchiness, or stabbing pain on the skin. After a few days, a rash appears as a band or patch of raised dots on the side of the trunk or face. When the rash is at its peak, symptoms can range from mild itching to extreme and intense pain.

Michael Irwin, M.D., from the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues measured shingles immunity in seniors who participated in three classes of Tai Chi a week for 15 weeks. The result? A 50-percent boost in shingles immunity among participants.

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A new study shows Tai Chi Chih can boost seniors' immunity to shingles. Irwin and colleagues followed 36 men and women aged 60 and over through 15 weeks of Tai Chi Chih classes. There were three 45 minute classes a week. Tai Chi Chih is a modified version of traditional Tai Chi and consists of 20 simple, repetitive, non-strenuous movements that incorporate elements of balance, postural alignment, concentration and meditation.

"Tai Chi is really a combination of meditation as well as exercise. There had been some evidence that if you relax and you meditate, it may actually boost your immune system," Irwin said. The findings of his current study add weight to the evidence, as was seen in the significant boost in immunity. "We were very surprised. To see the changes in bodily measures and changes in immune system were very surprising to us. It's very exciting. It's an intervention that can easily be integrated into people's lives. It includes a component of bringing people together socially, which is also very important," Irwin said.

The boost in immunity among the seniors was not all researchers discovered. They also found improvements in health functioning. "We found significant improvements in the older adults who practiced Tai Chi and their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. What I mean … is how well people could carry out their day-to-day activities, such as climbing stairs, walking, carrying packages, and the ease with which they can do that," Irwin said. He said the findings of this study could also pave way for research on other illnesses. "Those kinds of effects upon the immune system may translate in to protection against other viruses.

It's been shown that Tai Chi has other effects upon promoting health and improving physical functioning," Irwin said. Tai chi has also been shown to help illnesses such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and arthritis. Many senior centers offer these types of classes. The Patience Tai Chi Association or the Tai Chi Chih Web site are good sources to locate a trained instructor.

Copyright ©2004TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin Ivanhoe Broadcast News online: www.ivanhoe.com

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