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Anxiety and Stress Management

with Patricia A. Farrell, PhD

This blog has been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support Dr. Farrell has brought to the WebMD community.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Tai Chi and Me

The weather has turned hostile in my part of the country and it’s increasingly difficult to motivate myself to get out of the house and into the gym. I’m no different from many others who know they need to exercise but can’t face weather in the teens or just above.

What to do about this dilemma? For me, it meant getting a tai chi tape that I could pop into the VCR and do the exercises at will, any time of the day or night when I happen to have free time. Several years ago, I had noticed some of my Asian neighbors out in their backyards during the very early morning hours and they were doing their tai chi.

Actually, I realize it would be better for me to put some structure, as they had done, into my schedule, so I’ll be doing it daily at the same time, if possible. You see, I like everyone else, has to put a bit of flexibility into my schedule for all those unexpected things that turn up at the last minute.

Tai chi is really a beautiful form of exercise that looks more like effortless flowing of the arms and movements of the legs, but has been found to help in many ways. Not only does exercise help us handle anxiety and depression, recent studies show it also helps to reduce falls in the elderly. A study in the British Medical Journal (Campbell et al, October 25, 1997) related how the authors studied 233 elderly women in terms of improvement in balance and fall protection after a series of tai chi classes over a period of months. Results indicate that women who participated in the tai chi classes were two-thirds less likely to have a fall and there was significant improvement in measures of balance and reaching forward beyond arm’s length.

Tai chi was also found to be useful in recovery from cancer treatments where a study in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing (8/30/05) found “evidence that regular physical activity or exercise can decrease emotional stress, blood pressure…and pain.” There was also improvement in cognitive processes. The authors noted that exercise was useful in the management of “nausea, fatigue, pain, anxiety and depression.”

It’s a simple exercise that you can do anywhere you care to and it has incredible benefits and there’s no strain, no pain and no huffing and puffing associated with it. Beautiful to watch, too. I’d say everyone should get on the train to tai chi.

Related Topics: Alternative Therapies for Depression, Tai Chi May Help Seniors Avoid Falls

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Posted by: Patricia Farrell, PhD at 1:04 pm

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