In this issue you will find:
- Important PCOM Dates
- Tai Ji as a Beneficial Exercise for Seniors
- Traditional Chinese Medicine to Lower Blood Pressure
- Benefits of Shiatsu Massage
- Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day
Tai Ji as a Beneficial Exercise for Seniors
By: Michelle Fletcher
More and more seniors are becoming physically active—reaping the countless health benefits associated with regular exercise. If power walking and your run-of-the-mill strength building exercises are uninteresting, the no-impact Chinese exercise Tai Ji is an excellent way to tone muscle, increase endurance, and gain balance.
In a recent study in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, researchers concluded that the movements associated with Tai Ji helped seniors improve their physical functioning. Study participants who took Tai Ji twice a week for a six-month period noticed a significant improvement in their ability to accomplish daily tasks such as carrying groceries, walking up stairs, or moving medium-sized objects.
“It was concluded that the six month Tai Ji exercise program was effective for improving functional status in healthy, physically inactive older adults. A self-paced and self-controlled activity such as Tai Ji has the potential to be an effective, low-cost means of improving functional status in older persons.” Most notably, those who took Tai Ji were less likely to fall—one of the largest causes of serious injury for seniors.
Tai Ji practice can reduce the inconsistency of arm movement force output by older adults. In a study performed at the University of Houston, scientists concluded, “Tai Ji practice may serve as a better real world exercise for reducing force variability in older adults’ manual performance.”
The movements of Tai Ji combine the elements of balance, toning and aerobic exercises, through slow, graceful actions. When practiced regularly, Tai Ji positively affects overall health and wellbeing. Flexibility enables seniors to reach the top shelf, while balance aids in preventing serious falls. Practitioners will also develop stronger lungs—to walk without becoming winded—and improved leg strength—to easily rise from a seated position. Because it is a no-impact exercise, Tai Ji is especially well-suited for older adults.
Tai Ji has three major components: movement, meditation, and deep breathing. All major muscle groups are utilized to articulate the gentle, slow movements of Tai Ji. Further, its movements improve strength, flexibility, coordination, and muscle tone. The exercise may help slow bone loss, and prevent osteoporosis. The meditative aspect of Tai Ji soothes the mind, reduces anxiety, enhances concentration, and lowers blood pressure. The deep breathing releases tension, enhances blood circulation to the brain, and supplies the body with fresh oxygen.
For older adults seeking an effective, no-impact exercise with a multitude of benefits, Tai Ji is an excellent choice to free the mind and energize the body.
Traditional Chinese Medicine to Lower Blood Pressure
By Kathleen Rushall
Traditional Chinese medicine is a large practice composed of many aspects. There is acupuncture (the use of small needles to free and aid one’s qi), qi gong (a self healing art that combines meditation and movement), massage therapy, herbs, and various manners of meditation, to name a few. Each practice has specific ailments that it can aid, and some may overlap in their benefits. For example, there is new evidence that the ancient arts of acupuncture and qi gong can help with hypertension, also known as high blood pressure.
High blood pressure directly increases the risk of coronary heart disease (which leads to heart attack) and stroke, especially when it's present with other risk factors. It can occur in both adults and children, but is most prevalent in people over 35. Hypertension can be a dangerous condition when left untended, but is also a manageable one. Western medicine generally prescribes medication and healthier eating habits to control hypertension. While these lifestyle changes are always beneficial, there are some Eastern practices that may prove even more successful, particularly when in conjunction with those from the West.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) published a study in 2003 that declared qi gong reduced blood pressure and catecholamine (chemical compound) levels in patients with essential hypertension. Fifty-eight patients volunteered to participate in this study and were randomly divided into either a qi gong group or a wait list control group. In response to 10 weeks of qi gong, systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and rate pressure product (RPP) were decreased significantly. The conclusion stated that, “There was a significant reduction of norepinephrine, epinephrine, cortisol, and stress level…these results suggest that qi gong may reduce BP and catecholamines via stabilizing the sympathetic nervous system.” This is just one publication that discusses the benefits of Eastern practices for blood pressure.
The Taoist Sanctuary of San Diego published an article that details the practice of qi gong. In this article it is explained that, “Various types of breathing will affect the body in different ways. Abdominal diaphragmatic breathing will lower the blood pressure, activate peristalsis, and increase the venous return of oxygenated blood. This increases the overall oxygen level of the blood.” In a mind over matter practice, qi gong can help to keep blood pressure under control along with levels of stress, anxiety, and energy.
Medscape Medical News published an article called Blood Pressure Changes with Acupuncture Comparable to Those with ACE Inhibitor Monotherapy. Shelley Wood describes the study that the article was based on and explains that it’s the first randomized trial in the West to test acupuncture against sham needle technique to treat hypertension. The conclusion of the study was positive in regard to acupuncture, stating that “…performed properly, acupuncture may produce blood pressure changes on par with monotherapy in mild-to-moderate hypertension.” This is the best possible effect of acupuncture regarding blood pressure.
Wood also explains that, “After three and six months, the blood pressure reductions disappeared, leading investigators to conclude that ongoing acupuncture treatments would be required to maintain the blood pressure reductions.” So, acupuncture must be consistently practiced to maintain its benefits on high blood pressure. Like healthy eating or exercise, acupuncture treatments should be consistent for the best long-term results. Once high blood pressure occurs, it can last a lifetime. It becomes integral to the quality of one’s life to control and treat high blood pressure. Known as the silent killer because of its lack of symptoms, it makes perfect sense that alternative medical practices that focus on being in tune with one’s own body, such as qi gong or acupuncture, are successful tools for monitoring and lowering blood pressure.
http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=2112. The American Heart Association.
The Taoist Sanctuary of San Diego. http://www.taoistsanctuary.org/newsite/qigong/principles.htm
Benefits of Shiatsu Massage
By Michelle Fletcher
Over the past few decades, massage has grown from a periodic indulgence to a key component of overall fitness, wellness, and health in Western society. Massage has proven to reduce stress, rejuvenate the body, and provide therapy for various medical ailments. Many health providers now list massage therapists with general practitioners, optometrists, and dentists. Each year, thousands of individuals are exposed to massage therapy for their first time.
Massage takes on many forms; the most common is Swedish or deep-tissue massage. Techniques designed to increase blood flow to problem areas and invigorate the muscles, Swedish massage is made up of long, rhythmic strokes, circular actions, and kneading. Those receiving Swedish massage experience improved circulation, relaxation, and reduction of stress.
Shiatsu is yet another form of massage, based upon the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Shiatsu is a Japanese word meaning, “finger pressure,” and its goal is similar to that of acupuncture or acupressure: to restore the balance of energy (qi) in the body. Practitioners of Chinese medicine and shiatsu massage assert that disease and physical infirmities are caused by blockages or imbalances in the flow of energy throughout the body. Shiatsu practitioners strive to balance positive and negative energies (yin and yang) within the body to achieve balance and homeostasis within the body. A buildup or deficiency of one type of energy can cause illness, pain, or other problems in the body.
Using the concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine, shiatsu massage utilizes points along one of the body’s meridians, applying force pressure to the point with hand. These points may be anywhere on the body, including the hands, feet, elbows, back, arms, legs, etc. Shiatsu is a mind-body experience, providing both physical and spiritual benefits. Balanced qi energy promotes physical comfort, improved health, and emotional health and stability.
Shiatsu is not merely a tool of Chinese medicine, but an applicable treatment for common ailments. A study at Drake University proved that shiatsu massage helped alleviate back pain in patients. “Shiatsu… was used as an intervention in the study of 66 individuals complaining of lower back pain.” After following a designated number of treatments, subjects showed a great deal of improvement in mobility, energy, and pain in the lower back region. “Both pain and anxiety decreased significantly over time. …These subjects would recommend shiatsu massage for others suffering from lower back pain and indicated the treatments decreased the major inconveniencies they experiences with their lower back pain.”
A Swiss study confirmed these results. “Shiatsu massage can rapidly induce measurable relaxation in distant muscles not directly massaged, and is accompanied by signs of neurovegetative calming.” Clearly, shiatsu massage affects both the body in mind, restoring the body’s energy balance and promoting an overall feeling of satiety and wellbeing.
Unlike clinical settings, shiatsu massage provides a welcoming environment. Those new to shiatsu should enjoy the arm, comforting atmosphere and relax into the specialized bodywork provided. It is best to wear light cotton clothing, as treatments are made on a fully clothed body. Most treatments take about 45 – 60 minutes, offering time for the mind to drift and meditate.
There are many benefits from shiatsu massage:
- Deep tissue and muscle relaxation
- The releasing of toxins from the body
- Stress reduction
- Disease prevention
- Improved blood circulation
- Increased flexibility
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced anxiety
- Balanced life energy (qi)
- Increased mental awareness
Whether seeking treatment for ailing muscles, a mental release, or complement to physical therapy, shiatsu massage is an excellent way to relax, align energies, and promote overall wellbeing in the body.
Brady, LH., Henry, K., et al. The effects of shiatsu on lower back pain. Journal of Holistic Nursing. 2001 Mar;19(1):57-70.
Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day
The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.