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Tai Chi reduces inflammatory risks in cancer survivors

Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese exercise practice, frequently shows up in our health and wellness chat. A recent study from UCLA Health reveals Tai Chi brings much-needed relief for breast cancer survivors struggling with insomnia while offering some surprising additional health perks.

This latest research, completed under the leadership of Dr. Michael Irwin, reveals how Tai Chi and cognitive behavioral therapy can help breast cancer survivors get better sleep. These remedies might also be reducing inflammation and improving anti-viral defenses.

What is Tai Chi?

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese practice that blends gentle movements, meditation, and breathing techniques. Often called “meditation in motion,” it features slow, flowing movements performed with relaxation and focus.

This practice offers many health benefits, such as improved balance, flexibility, and muscle strength. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety, promoting a sense of calm and overall well-being.

Sleepless nights and inflammation

It’s common for cancer survivors to face chronic insomnia. This unpleasant symptom can even trigger inflammatory diseases, potentially amplifying the risk of cancer recurrence.

Worryingly, 30% of breast cancer survivors report suffering insomnia, a rate double that among the general populace. While Tai Chi and cognitive behavioral therapy have been successful insomnia treatments, their effects on inflammation reversal were previously unknown.

Tai Chi vs. cognitive behavioral therapy

For 15 months, researchers at UCLA Health kept a close eye on 90 breast cancer survivors, analyzing inflammation biomarkers in frequent blood samples. The results? Both Tai Chi and cognitive behavioral therapy work wonders, but in different areas.

Tai Chi led to a pronounced, lasting reduction in inflammation among participants compared to cognitive behavioral therapy. “Tai Chi can be readily provided in community settings, with minimal cost, and can treat insomnia in adults, older adults and cancer survivors,” said Irwin.

“Further, Tai Chi, as compared to cognitive behavioral therapy, has additional advantage in reducing inflammation in breast cancer survivors.”

On the flip side, those participants undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy demonstrated greater anti-viral gene transcripts, thus possibly boosting body defenses against infections.

What’s the takeaway?

“Tai Chi preferentially reduces inflammation as compared to cognitive behavioral therapy, whereas cognitive behavioral therapy preferentially improves antiviral viral immunity or resistance to infectious disease,” said Irwin.

Further research that examines the combined benefit of Tai Chi and cognitive behavioral therapy is needed, especially in cancer survivors who are at risk for inflammatory disorder as well as infectious disease.

The study relied on blood samples from breast cancer survivors collected from 2008 to 2012 from 90 participants in the Los Angeles area. Over 15 months, half were assigned weekly Tai Chi sessions, while the remaining participants were allocated to cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, each lasting 120 minutes for a three-month period.

Future directions

Although the study’s results are profound, there were some limitations. The participant pool was mainly white, older adults with higher education levels and lacked individuals with coexisting medical conditions.

Plus, access to Tai Chi instruction could prove challenging in some communities. The practice requires commitment, usually involving several days per week; a significant factor in comparison to cognitive behavioral therapy.

So, what’s next? Ongoing research is delving into the inflammation activation trajectories and accelerated aging amongst breast cancer survivors compared to non-cancer women.

This will clarify the behavioral and biological targets for depression prevention and reducing other health risks in cancer survivors. So, let’s wait for the next wave of fascinating research on this healing journey.

Integration in daily life

Incorporating Tai Chi into your daily routine might seem daunting at first, but the benefits are absolutely worth it.

Beginners can start with simple, low-impact sequences, gradually building confidence and skill. Local community centers, online classes, and instructional videos make it easy to get started. Even just a few minutes of regular practice can significantly boost your physical and mental health.

Studies show that consistency is key -practicing Tai Chi multiple times a week leads to the best results. This ancient practice not only brings harmonic balance but also fosters a mindful attitude that enhances all areas of life.

Embracing Tai Chi’s meditative motion brings mental clarity and reduces stress, making it a holistic approach to wellness.

The study is published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.


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