A Little Tai Chi Might Lead to Sweet Dreams

In the e-alert "Supremely Ultimate" (3/18/04), I told you about Tai Chi; the ancient Chinese exercise system that consists of a specific series of gentle physical movements.

Studies show that people who practice Tai Chi often experience health benefits such as improvements in balance and strength, cardiovascular and respiratory function, flexibility, reduction of arthritis symptoms, immune system enhancement and positive psychological effects.

Now a new study from the Oregon Research Institute finds that improvements in sleep patterns may be added to that list.

As reported in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers recruited a group about 120 men and women, aged 60 to 92, who all reported having moderate sleep problems. The subjects were divided into two groups to participate in exercise sessions of either Tai Chi or low-impact exercise for six months. The exercise sessions for each group lasted 60 minutes, three times each week. Subjects were evaluated using two different sleep quality assessment techniques.

Both groups improved on cognitive thinking scores, underlining just one of the many benefits of regular exercise. But the Tai Chi subjects showed significant improvements in all of the sleep scores, compared to few such improvements in the low-impact group.

Sleep quality, sleep duration, sleep efficiency, and sleep disturbances were all improved on by the Tai Chi subjects. Their sleep duration averaged nearly 50 minutes more each night, while the time it took to fall asleep decreased by an average of almost 20 minutes, compared to the low-impact subjects.

Researchers concluded that a low- to moderate-intensity Tai Chi program may be an effective way to avoid pharmaceutical sleep aids for elderly people who have trouble getting a good night's rest.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute