April 9 (Xinhuanet)-- A new study suggests that Chinese martial art taijiquan
offers benefits beyond improving fitness and balance: It may help prevent
shingles, a painful skin condition.
The study is published in the Journal of the American
Geriatrics Society quoted by the media Monday.
Taijiquan, becoming increasingly popular in the West, is
well known as a good low-impact exercise for older people, but researchers at
the National Institute on Aging (NIA) find that it can also affect the immune
Though it remains unclear how it affects the immune
system, health experts are encouraged by the positive results.
"One in five people who have had chickenpox will get
shingles later in life, usually after age 50, and the risk increases as people
get older," said NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. "More research is needed,
but this study suggests that the taijiquan intervention tested, in
combination with immunization, may enhance protection of older adults from this
One hundred and twelve healthy adults took part in
the study between the ages of 59 and 86. All participants had previously had
For three months, half of the group took part in
taijiquan classes, and the other half attended health education classes.
Six months following the study, the taijiquan group showed nearly twice the
immunity level to shingles than did the health education group.
In addition, this group reported significant
improvements in physical functioning, bodily pain, vitality and mental health.
Both groups showed significant declines in the severity of depressive symptoms.
"These are exciting findings, because the positive
results of this study also have implications for other infectious diseases, like
influenza and pneumonia," said the director of the UCLA Cousins Center for