Yang style Taiji

Many people with pre-diabetes are overweight and are more at risk of developing cardio-vascular disease. The good news – Tai Chi exercise is generally considered to be safe and an effective form of exercise for those with or at risk of developing CVD.

Why is Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) such a problem?

Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) and its risk factors  are by far the most common cause of death here in the west. Cardio vascular disease includes a number of conditions that affect the heart and the surrounding structures. Conditions such as coronary artery disease that cause narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and can lead to a heart attack. Strokes are another common cause of CVD and can either be fatal or life reducing for the person affected. This occurs when the blood supply to the brain via an artery is suddenly cut off. This then kills off the cells in the brain because lack of oxygen and glucose to the area.

Life style changes

The good news is that changes to life style can have a profound effect on the causes of CVD. Implementing a daily regime of good dietary habits and very low intensity exercise such a daily Tai Chi Chuan can prove to be really life enhancing.

Why is daily Taiji Quan and Qigong exercise so beneficial for CVD?

Tai Chi and Qigong exercise has been shown to improve 50-70% of heart rate reserve. This form of exercise is especially suited to the unfit and the elderly that are more likely to have CVD. Taiji exercise is slow, rhythmical and does put not put any strain on the heart muscle or blood vessels leading to the heart. The exercise intensity initially is low to moderate, so the Taiji player can choose the ideal exercise duration and intensity until their fitness level improves. The duration can very gradually be increased over many months. The more martial forms of Taiji can be avoided by those that do not have the necessary fitness or health levels. But these are not usually taught for many years until the player is ready for them anyway.

There has been a lot of research into Tai Chi and CVD, which shows that aerobic capacity, muscular strength and heart capacity can be improved vastly, by this form of low intensity workout. Tai Chi is proven to reduce hypertension and helps to control type 2 Diabetes which are major risk factors for CVD. Research carried out on patients with myocardial infarction, coronary bypass surgery and heart failure shows that the exercise is both safe and effective for these conditions.  The research shows that selected patients with CVD can perform Taiji and Qigong safely and even improve their medical condition. The Chinese community have of course known this to be the case for hundreds of years. We are just developing an understanding of the many benefits of this form of exercise through properly conducted research and many positive testimonials.

Why is Taiji and Qigong exercise so effective for the circulation?

It is well know that aerobic exercise such, as running or external martial arts like Karate (an-aerobic exercise) increase the volume of blood entering the blood vessel, until it becomes flooded and is then pumped by the heart. This is done via the heart beat. The heart muscle has to really work hard to do this type of aerobic exercise, which precludes a number of patients with CVD and with other risk factors. Tai Chi exercise works slightly differently in that it expands and contracts the blood vessel. The pressure is increased within the blood vessel itself.

Personal view point

In my years of external martial arts practice notably in Shotokan karate   an hour or so after the session, when my body had cooled, I usually felt totally drained of energy, physically and emotionally tired. I enjoyed the hard training immensely at the time but now realise that this form of movement can have detrimental effects to our long term health. Sometimes after I arrived home I would find it hard to relax, calm down and sleep well at night. After a Taiji and Qigong session I always feel enlivened and more awake, but never drained physically, mentally or emotionally. I never have a problem with sleeping or being over tired in the same way that I did with Karate training. Taiji exercise usually always leaves me with a deep sense of wellbeing and mind and body alertness.

Other risk factors of CVD

Smoking is one of the most avoidable risk factors of CVD. STOP now by getting some help from your physician.

Congenital family history – If your parents, grandparents, brothers or sisters have CVD then you are more at risk of CVD yourself.

Age – Over 65’s are 85% more likely to have the disease.

Males – Males are more predisposed to the condition than females.

Race – Africans, Asians, Mexicans are some of the races that are more likely to be affected by CVD. This is usually because of higher levels of obesity, hypertension and Diabetes in these communities.

Lack of exercise – Sedentary life style is a common cause of CVD and is well covered under Tai Chi exercise.

Bad Cholesterol (LDL) – Bad cholesterol (LDL) and fatty deposits should be lowered in the blood stream. These tend to block the flow of blood within the blood vessel. Get some dietary advice from your physician and have your cholesterol and blood pressure regularly checked.

Reduce alcohol intake – Excessive alcohol intake can raise the blood pressure cause strokes and heart disease.

Excessive weight – Being overweight especially around the abdominal area can be a major cause of CVD. Always seek advice from your physician before undertaking a new dietary regime.

Gary Webb MChS


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