Saturday, May 11, 2024

Tai Chi for a Better Brain



This traditional Chinese martial art may do more than keep seniors strong, flexible and mobile. A new study from China found that practicing tai chi three times a week can increase brain volume and improve both memory and cognitive function. 

Researchers at Shanghai's Fudan University and a team from the University of South Florida conducted an eight-month trial comparing a group of Chinese seniors who regularly practiced tai chi with a control group that did not. The trial was the first to demonstrate that tai chi could result in improved memory and increased brain volume. 

Previous studies have shown that aerobic exercise can lead to an increase in brain volume, and some improvements in thinking were seen in seniors who participated in a discussion group that met three times a week. The researchers noted that gradual cognitive deterioration and dementia are associated with brain shrinkage. 

They said that the group that did not participate in tai chi or discussions showed a decrease in brain mass consistent with their age. The study was published June 19, 2012 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

T'ai Chi is Better at Lowering Blood Pressure Than Aerobic Exercise

A new study found the ancient Chinese martial art of Tai Chi was more effective in reducing high blood pressure than other forms of exercise such as brisk walking or stair climbing.

Chinese scientists compared two groups of participants with high blood pressure over one year—one practicing Tai Chi and the other performing aerobic exercise.

The authors of the study, published in the JAMA Network Open journal, say their results should encourage health advisors to promote the gentle martial art in preventing heart disease in those with hypertension.

Researchers from the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences took 342 participants with prehypertension–blood pressure that’s slightly higher than normal–and split them into two groups.

Half the participants (average age 49) performed Tai Chi, the Chinese martial art practiced for self-defense and health, during four supervised sessions every week for one year.

The traditional mind-body exercise guides individuals to concentrate on very slow and fluid movements that can benefit an individual’s balance, breathing, and heart function. (Watch a beginning lesson below…) Previous studies have also shown its benefits in reducing blood pressure.

The other half of participants performed aerobic exercise including climbing stairs, jogging, brisk walking, and cycling four times a week during the same time frame.

Researchers measured the systolic blood pressure (SBP) of participants at six months and at the end of the study. At both stages, they found significant differences in the blood pressure of the two groups.

Each participant had blood pressure readings of between 120 and 139 at the beginning of the study.

At 12 months, the average blood pressure of the Tai Chi group fell by 7.1 points, whereas the aerobic groups’ fell by just 4.61. Similar results were also observed after six months.

Both the blood pressure readings taken during the day and those taken while sleeping at night were each found to be significantly reduced in the Tai Chi group compared with their aerobic exercising counterparts.

Dr. Yanwei Xing, a lead author of the study, said the results showed definite benefits of practicing Tai Chi for reducing blood pressure.

“Twelve months of Tai Chi are superior to aerobic exercise for reducing blood pressure load in patients with prehypertension—which would be more beneficial in reducing the risk of hypertension.”

Dr. Xing suggested public health bodies should promote Tai Chi as a method of preventing heart disease, especially because it is suitable for people of all ages and physical conditions to practice. Particularly beneficial for seniors, Tai Chi can help improve body flexibility and balance, which reduces the risk of falls in older adults.

“From the perspective of implementation, a Tai Chi program proves to be a safe, moderate-intensity, mind-body exercise that is easy to practice in community settings.”

- Good News Network, Feb. 11, 2024


Friday, June 4, 2021

Outdoor T'ai Chi Class is Back!

I'm happy to announce my intermediate/advanced t'ai chi class has resumed in Virginia Avenue Park, Wednesdays, 9:00 - 10:30 a.m.  (If you are brand new to t'ai chi, this class is not appropriate for you.  Watch this space for information on future classes for beginners.)

Class includes warm-up exercises, qi gong, instruction in traditional, Yang-style t’ai chi, and silent practice.  These are ongoing classes so you may join at any time but contact me (p.akers@gmail.com) before attending your first class so I may send you a registration form.    

Location:  Virginia Avenue Park, 2200 Virginia Ave. (between 21st & Cloverfield), Santa Monica, 90404.  We meet on the Virginia Avenue side of the park, east of the playground.   Virginia Park has two parking lots, off Pico Bl. and off Virginia Ave.  There is some street parking on the south side of Virginia Ave.  The north side is permit only.

Fee:  $10 per class, cash or check. 

I hope you'll join us and play t'ai chi outdoors, beneath a large ficus tree.   

  

  


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Virginia Park T'ai Chi Classes Suspended

Due to COVID-19 restrictions on group gatherings, I have suspended my outdoor classes in Santa Monica's Virginia Park until further notice.  Watch this blog for the restart of these classes.  

Until then, please consider taking one of my free zoom classes through the SMC program, Emeritus college, Emeritus Program - Santa Monica College (smc.edu)  The spring semester begins Feb. 16, 2021.  Did I mention these classes are free?!


Sunday, July 26, 2020

T'ai Chi During COVID-19

I've been aol for a while.  Adjusting to what, unfortunately, is the "new normal".  My outdoor classes in Virginia Park have been suspended since March 18.  I plan to resume teaching one of these classes as soon as it feels safe to do so.  Watch this space for updates.  

I will teach an Emeritus College Zoom class at 9-10:15 a.m. Mondays/Fridays beginning August 31.  It will be for beginning/intermediate level students.  Because it is a "virtual" class, there is no cutoff for enrollment so feel free to tell friends.  If you've never taken a Zoom class before, there is information on SMC's website, where you enroll:  www.smc.edu/emeritus 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

T'ai Chi Classes Outdoors in Virginia Avenue Park

As Mae West once said, "A good t'ai chi class is hard to find."
Enjoy t'ai chi Wednesday mornings in this beautiful Santa Monica park.  Classes are held under a big ficus tree and include warm-up exercises, instruction in traditional Yang-style t’ai chi, and silent practice.  Classes are ongoing so you may join at any time but please contact Pat, p.akers@gmail.com, to enroll before attending your first class. 


Wednesday classes:


9:00 - 10:15 a.m.     Intermediate/Advanced

10:30 - 11:45 a.m.   Beginners
                                      (Fewer than three students, class ends at 11:30)​  


Fee (cash or check): ​

                     Single class = $15
       4 consecutive classes = $40
       9 consecutive classes = $70   

No credit for missed classes.  You will be credited if I cancel a class.

Beginner's Class on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.

Prospective students have told me it is difficult to find a t'ai chi class just for beginning students.  If you are new to t'ai chi, I offer an outdoor class that is just for beginners.  In my 30 years of teaching, I've found this is ​an optimal learning environment for those new to t'ai chi.  You'll receive individual attention and tips to help improve your posture and balance while you learn this beautiful "moving meditation".  The class is paced so you'll have lots of repetition and time to practice the movements.

Classes include warm-up exercises, instruction in traditional, Yang-style t’ai chi and silent practice.  This is an ongoing class but please contact me, p.akers@gmail.com, before attending your first class

Where:  
Virginia Avenue Park, 2200 VA Ave. (between 20th & Cloverfield), Santa Monica, 90404.  We meet on the Virginia Avenue side of the park, east of the playground.   The park has two lots, off Pico Bl. and off Virginia Ave., and you can park on the south side of Virginia Ave. (the north side is permit only).

When:  
   Wednesdays   10:30 - 11:45 a.m.  (Fewer than three students, 10:30-11:30)​   
Fee (cash or check): ​
                Single class = $15
  4 consecutive classes = $40               
  9 consecutive classes = $70
                
 There is no credit for missed classes.