Tai Chi Health Notes
Here’s some more information about the health benefits of practicing TC that i found when going through my old notes.
Cerebral cortex/nervous system
(The cerebral cortex is the principal controller of both mental and physical function in Man.) The tai chi form harmonizes the movements of the four limbs (with the head and torso) and causes a state of calm. This harmonization engenders great tranquillity and the total relaxation of the muscles. The whole nervous system is relaxed and stress no longer has its disastrous effects. Perception becomes clearer and the nervous impulses to the organs run smoothly and efficiently. With constant practice, this 'anti-stress effect' lasts the day through. It is known that stress causes many degenerative diseases, including heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Therefore, tai chi's action can benefit numerous physical functions and be an important medical preventive.
Tai chi's gentleness, the slowness of movements and the holding of the correct posture, make the muscles work gently and thoroughly. It gives tone and strength, without the side effects of more vigorous exercise. The joints are similarly exercised and strengthened during practice. Gentle pressure and constant motion mobilize the articulations, which helps to free their action, even into old age.
Posture improves measurably, and the skeletal system functions correctly, enhancing bodily health and one's perception of oneself. Tendons which control flexibility are gently stretched, and the tell tale signs of age are minimized.
The American Heart Association advises that you should exercise and achieve 60% of your M.H.R. (Maximum Heart Rate). In experiments in the United States, the research volunteers achieved this level of heart rate by using low level tai chi stances during the form, but without the excessive strain of running and similar exercise. Thus, a beneficial effect can be obtained for people wishing to exercise the heart, to keep it healthy without the bump and grind of standard exercise routines.
The form exercises the vascular system and research has shown that it causes vasodilation (increase in the diameter of blood vessels), thus increasing blood flow in the body. It has been noted that the skin is helped in this respect, consistent practice of the overall action of the form helping to smooth and tone.
Diaphragmatic breathing deepens the action of the lungs and helps oxygenate the system, stimulating vitality and helping to remove unwanted bodily toxins. The functions of both the respiratory and circulatory systems are enhanced by the free flow and efficient oxygenation of the blood. This helps the brain to work at peak efficiency.
Incorrect breathing has been associated with several degenerative diseases - when you consider that the average person uses less than one third of the lungs' capacity, insufficient oxygenation would seem the obvious conclusion. A deeper breathing pattern has also been found to affect the lymphatic system which removes toxic waste from the body. Unlike the circulatory system, which has the heart, the lymphatic system has no pump to move the lymph around the body. The increased breathing volume assists in this respect.
The diaphragmatic breathing and circular motions of the form massage the organs, including those of the digestive system, aiding their functions. The lack of stress on the nervous system and the correct nerve function to the digestive organs benefit the whole system. This has prompted tai chi's use in Far Eastern hospitals specializing in ulcers of the digestive tract, with quite impressive results.
With greater efficiency of the digestive organs, increased benefit can be achieved from the food taken in, enhancing the general well-being of the body. When the mind is agitated and under stress, more acid is secreted into the stomach. If the acid is allowed to become too strong, an ulcer will form, either in the stomach or the small intestine. With a calm mind, the excess acid will cease to over-produce, and the body will be assisted in hearing the ulcer. The alleviation of stress is obviously a very important adjunct to medical professionals treating digestive complaints.
Due to the posture and movements of tai chi, the glandular system is toned and exercised. The glandular system plays an intrinsic role in the proper functioning of the internal organs. Without glandular participation, none of the major organs would function correctly.
The glandular system controls all aspects of the sexual system. Sexual reproduction and the physical male and female characteristics during adolescence are instigated by these glands. The menstrual cycle in women is also directly controlled by the glandular system.
The immune response is triggered within the body from the activities of the glands and their associated organs.
Metabolism is controlled by the glandular system and the metabolic rate. The metabolic rate is the speed at which energy, and consequently bodily fat, is burned in the body.
Tai chi exercise aids in the control of metabolism and thus helps to normalize body weight. Several other functions are also said to be enhanced by regular tai chi practice.
It is believed that internal exercise affects the functioning of the thymus gland, which is closely related to the immune system. The thymus plays an active role in the production of 'T cells', which are part of the immune response to disease.
It was found during experimentation that tai chi practitioners produced more antibodies after exercising with the solo form. Athletes, on the other hand, appeared to have a lower antibody reading after running 1500 meters than they had before beginning the run. This could support the long held belief that tai chi assists in the body's ability to resist disease.
Network outside your central nervous system
Function: To relay information to and from your central nervous system
Actions: Your peripheral nerves transmit voluntary and involuntary actions
All the nerves and nerve cells outside your central nervous system make up your peripheral nervous system.
Its task is to relay information from your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body and from your body to your brain and spinal cord.
Your peripheral nervous system consists of 12 pairs of cranial nerves, which emerge from your brain and mainly serve your head and neck. It also contains 31 pairs of spinal nerves, which branch off from your spinal cord and supply the rest of your body.
Voluntary and involuntary actions
With the help of your peripheral nerves, you are able to carry out voluntary and involuntary actions.
If you pick up a mug, clap your hands or lift weights in the gym, you are performing voluntary actions. You are conscious of what you're doing. Your brain receives nerve impulses and analyses them before you decide what to do next.
In contrast, your heart beats and your intestines digest without your conscious control. Involuntary actions such as these are regulated by your autonomic nervous system. The autonomic part of your peripheral nervous system ensures that all your internal organs and glands function smoothly.
Your autonomic nervous system has two parts:
The sympathetic and the parasympathetic.
Both supply essentially the same organs but cause opposite effects. This is because their activating chemicals, or neurotransmitters, are different.
Fight or flight
Often referred to as your 'fight-or-flight' system, your sympathetic nervous system prepares your body for emergencies. It shunts your blood to your muscles and increases your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate, enabling you to cope with stressful situations.
Rest and digest
Your parasympathetic nervous system maintains and restores your energy. It directs blood to your digestive tract and makes sure you actively digest food. It also maintains your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate at a low level. That's why it is sometimes called your 'rest and digest' system.