Osteoporosis is a process of the gradual aging process where the density and quality of bone deteriorates which can then lead to fractures. In New Zealand alone it is estimated that at least 3000 people a year obtain hip fractures as a result of osteoporosis and sadly about a quarter of these patients die within one year. Peter M Wayne a PhD researcher from Harvard Medical School found that Tai Chi can help increase bone mineral density in post-menopausal women. Tai Chi is relatively new compared to other martial arts and the various qi gong styles as it is only been around 500 years or so. It is perhaps best described as a type of moving meditation looking somewhat like kung fu in slow motion. Tai Chi is actually a martial art and practicing the form regularly improves the health.
Partaking in regular Tai Chi increases bone mineral density which means there is less chance of a fracture if there is a fall.
The New Zealand government pays around $12000 for a hip replacement as the result of a fall but surprisingly cancelled the ACC Preventative Fall Classes in Tai Chi for the Elderly in 2010 as a cost cutting measure. So much for their slogan- Prevention, Care , Recovery.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Osteoporosis a priority health issue and the New Zealand government has set up a website Osteoporosis NZ on which it recommends calcium and vitamin D supplements as a preventative. There is a free trade agreement between China and New Zealand and with Prime Minister John Key regularly travelling to China it is hoped he will may see Tai Chi being practiced there and be tempted to try it and experience the benefit. Politicians may then realize the health care cost saving potential of implementing true preventative medicine such as Tai Chi.
Nearly anyone of any age can take up Tai Chi and in fact taking up Tai Chi will lengthen your life. In traditional Chinese medical thought, the human body is made up of meridians that traverse the body and connect with the internal organs. Doing Tai Chi opens and circulates the energy in the meridians and hence helps the internal organs receive nourishment. Calcium absorption and elimination is a complex process involving a number of organs and systems and how Tai Chi affects this is not known.
Research is only just starting to explore the mechanisms of how acupuncture and Chinese herbs actually work. It will be interesting to see if researchers actually try to work out how Tai Chi works. Researchers being researchers will probably want to compare real Tai Chi with placebo Tai Chi. So why not research Tai Chi yourself and just do it and enjoy the benefits reported by millions of people. Benefits include more energy, better sleep, decreased headaches, increased strength, more flexibility and research has also demonstrated that Tai Chi can help Parkinson’s disease.
In Napier you can learn Tai Qi with Cory Lee Waterreus.