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T'ai-Chi Ch'uan Lowers Blood Pressure
Author: Harvey Kurland, M.Sc., MFS, CSCS

Many students comment how the t'ai-chi they practice in our classes has helped them to keep their blood pressure under control. But, Dr. D. Young from Johns Hopkins University was surprised that t'ai-chi significantly reduced blood pressure. In a 12 week study, she found systolic blood pressure fell 8.4 mm Hg in the aerobic exercise group and 7mm Hg in the t'ai-chi group. The benefits were seen after only 6 week (AHA press release, Washington Post, 4/14/98, p. Z28). I don't find these results surprising, based on what students have said and the research we reviewed in past issues.

Several studies showed that t'ai-chi ch'uan is an aerobic exercise and has reduced blood pressure. For example Dr. K. Channer found that t'ai-chi reduced blood pressure in cardiac patients (Postgrad Med J 1996 Ju;(848):349-351) and Kurland (UW 1975) found it lowered blood pressure acutely after ONE session in normal, nonhypertensive, students.

Aerobically, the t'ai-chi ch'uan slow form was found by Kurland to be 3 to 4 METS* (Sports Med., Training and Rehab., 1992, Vol 3, p228). Dr. D. Zhou, et al., found the t'ai-chi long form to be 4 METS, (Can J. Appl Sport Sci 1984, Mar;9(1):7-10). Zhou classified the Yang style "long form" as a moderate form of aerobic exercise. *one MET (metabolic unit) is equivalent to resting metabolism, about 3.5 m; O2/kg/min. 3 METS is equivalent to walking at 3 MPH. This means that t'ai-chi can be an effective aerobic exercise for people with a low to moderate aerobic capacities.

Dr. Ching Lan of the National Taiwan University Hospital found that there was a significant increase in aerobic capacity (VO2max) from practicing t'ai chi ch'uan. There was a 16% increase in aerobic capacity in men and 20% increase in women. Dr. Lan found a significant increase in flexibility and knee strength as well. The exercisers averaged 4.6 days a week for 11.2 months. Classes consisted of 20 minute warm-ups, 24 minutes of t'ai-chi and a 10 minute cool down. (Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise, 1998) Dr. Lan also found that classical Yang and Chen styles were 4-5 METs for women and 5-6 METs for men. This is a higher energy expenditure than found by Kurland or Zhou. Dr. Lan also found differences between several versions of Yang style.

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Harvey Kurland, M.Sc., MFS, CSCS, is a Certified Chief Instructor (Sifu) by the Chinese Tai Chi Chuan Association. He teaches for the University of California Riverside and Loma Linda University Drayson Center.











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