A lot of the things mentioned in this article we get to in our Youth Karate Program – The main thing for everyone young and old alike is to keep moving – A body in motion is likely to stay in motion! The simple pleasure of moving your body is one of the secrets of a long, happy and healthy life….better to learn that important lesson early in life!
Thanks for the link Angus
One of the main purposes of T’ai-Chi, Bagua, Standing Meditation and Qigong is to increase and evenly distribute blood flow (oxygen) to the brain through proven techniques like: Taoist Longevity Breathing, proper alignment of the bone structure, relaxed (Sung) and open (Peng) body musculature and slow even movements. The practices also reduce the amount of stress and strain on the joints, muscles, nervous system (s) and brain, by inducing a calm and relaxed state of mind (meditation) that will lead to clearer and more lucid thinking….. perhaps even increasing one’s mental abilities??? This article seems to think so! Read on…….
has preoccupied a growing number of scientists in recent years, as
well as many of us who exercise. In the late 1990s, Dr. Fred Gage
and his colleagues at the Laboratory of Genetics at the Salk Institute
in San Diego elegantly proved that human and animal brains
produce new brain cells (a process called neurogenesis) and that
exercise increases neurogenesis. The brains of mice and rats that
were allowed to run on wheels pulsed with vigorous, newly born
neurons, and those animals then breezed through mazes and other
tests of rodent I.Q., showing that neurogenesis improves thinking.
But how, exactly, exercise affects the staggeringly intricate workings
of the brain at a cellular level has remained largely mysterious. A
number of new studies, though, including work published this
month by Mr. Gage and his colleagues, have begun to tease out the
specific mechanisms and, in the process, raised new questions about
just how exercise remolds the brain.
Some of the most reverberant recent studies were performed at
Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
There, scientists have been manipulating the levels of bonemorphogenetic
protein or BMP in the brains of laboratory mice.
BMP, which is found in tissues throughout the body, affects cellular
development in various ways, some of them deleterious. In the
brain, BMP has been found to contribute to the control of stem cell
divisions. Your brain, you will be pleased to learn, is packed with
adult stem cells, which, given the right impetus, divide and
differentiate into either additional stem cells or baby neurons. As we
age, these stem cells tend to become less responsive. They don’t
divide as readily and can slump into a kind of cellular sleep. It’s
BMP that acts as the soporific, says Dr. Jack Kessler, the chairman
of neurology at Northwestern and senior author of many of the
recent studies. The more active BMP and its various signals are in
your brain, the more inactive your stem cells become and the less
neurogenesis you undergo. Your brain grows slower, less nimble,
But exercise countermands some of the numbing effects of BMP, Dr.
Kessler says. In work at his lab, mice given access to running wheels
had about 50 percent less BMP-related brain activity within a week.
They also showed a notable increase in Noggin, a beautifully named
brain protein that acts as a BMP antagonist. The more Noggin in
your brain, the less BMP activity exists and the more stem cell
divisions and neurogenesis you experience. Mice at Northwestern
whose brains were infused directly with large doses of Noggin
became, Dr. Kessler says, “little mouse geniuses, if there is such a
thing.” They aced the mazes and other tests.
Whether exercise directly reduces BMP activity or increases
production of Noggin isn’t yet known and may not matter. The
results speak for themselves. “If ever exercise enthusiasts wanted a
rationale for what they’re doing, this should be it,” Dr. Kessler says.
Exercise, he says, through a complex interplay with Noggin and
BMP, helps to ensure that neuronal stem cells stay lively and new
brain cells are born.
But there are caveats and questions remaining, as the newest
experiment from Dr. Gage’s lab makes clear. In that study,
published in the most recent issue of Cell Stem Cell, BMP signaling
was found to be playing a surprising, protective role for the brain’s
stem cells. For the experiment, stem cells from mouse brains were
transferred to petri dishes and infused with large doses of Noggin,
hindering BMP activity. Without BMP signals to inhibit them, the
stem cells began dividing rapidly, producing hordes of new neurons.
But over time, they seemed unable to stop, dividing and dividing
again until they effectively wore themselves out. The same reaction
occurred within the brains of living (unexercised) mice given large
doses of Noggin. Neurogenesis ramped way up, then, after several
weeks, sputtered and slowed. The “pool of active stem cells was
depleted,” a news release accompanying the study reported. An
overabundance of Noggin seemed to cause stem cells to wear
themselves out, threatening their ability to make additional neurons
in the future.
This finding raises the obvious and disturbing question: can you
overdose on Noggin by, for instance, running for hours, amping up
your production of the protein throughout? The answer, Dr. Gage
says, is, almost certainly, no. “Many people have been looking into”
that issue, he says. But so far, “there has not been any instance of a
negative effect from voluntary running” on the brain health of mice.
Instead, he says, it seems that the effects of exercise are constrained
and soon plateau, causing enough change in the activity of Noggin
and BMP to shake slumbering adult stem cells awake, but not
enough to goose them into exhausting themselves.
Still, if there’s not yet any discernible ceiling on brain-healthy
exercise, there is a floor. You have to do something. Walk, jog, swim,
pedal — the exact amount or intensity of the exercise required has
not been determined, although it appears that the minimum is
blessedly low. In mice, Mr. Gage says, “even a fairly short period” of
exercise “and a short distance seems to produce results”
Harvard Health Publications calls T’ai-Chi “Medication in Motion”!
Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but it might well be called “medication in motion.” There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems.
Tai chi is easy to learn and you can get started even if you aren’t in top shape or the best of health. In this low-impact, slow-motion exercise, you go without pausing through a series of motions named for animal actions or martial arts moves. As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention — as in some kinds of meditation — on your bodily sensations.
Tai chi differs from other types of exercise in several ways. The movements are never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched. Tai chi can be easily adapted for anyone, from the most fit to people confined to wheelchairs or recovering from surgery.
Tai chi in motion:
A tai chi class might include these parts:Warm-up. Easy motions, such as shoulder circles, turning the head from side to side, or rocking back and forth, help you to loosen your muscles and joints and focus on your breath and body.
Instruction and practice of tai chi forms:
Short forms — forms are sets of movements — may include a dozen or fewer movements; long forms may include hundreds. Different styles require smaller or larger movements. A short form with smaller, slower movements is usually recommended at the beginning, especially if you’re older or not in good condition.
Qigong (or chi kung):
Translated as “breath work” or “energy work,” this consists of a few minutes of gentle breathing sometimes combined with movement. The idea is to help relax the mind and mobilize the body’s energy. Qigong may be practiced standing, sitting, or lying down.
No pain, big gains:
Although tai chi is slow and gentle and doesn’t leave you breathless, it addresses the key components of fitness — muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning.
Here’s some of the evidence:
In a 2006 study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Stanford University researchers reported benefits of tai chi in 39 women and men, average age 66, with below-average fitness and at least one cardiovascular risk factor. After taking 36 tai chi classes in 12 weeks, they showed improvement in both lower-body strength and upper-body strength. In a Japanese study using the same strength measures, 113 older adults were assigned to different 12-week exercise programs, including tai chi, brisk walking, and resistance training. People who did tai chi improved more than 30% in lower-body strength and 25% in arm strength — almost as much as those who participated in resistance training, and more than those assigned to brisk walking.“Although you aren’t working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in tai chi strengthens your upper body,” says internist Dr. Gloria Yeh, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. “Tai chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.”
Women in the 2006 Stanford study significantly boosted upper- and lower-body flexibility as well as strength.
Tai chi improves balance and, according to some studies, reduces falls.
— the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space — declines with age. Tai chi helps train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments. Tai chi also improves muscle strength and flexibility, which makes it easier to recover from a stumble.
Depending on the speed and size of the movements, tai chi can provide some aerobic benefits. But in the Japanese study, only participants assigned to brisk walking gained much aerobic fitness. If your clinician advises a more intense cardio workout with a higher heart rate than tai chi can offer, you may need something more aerobic as well.
For more information on the health benefits of exercise, order our Special Health Report, Exercise: A program you can live with, at www.health.harvard.edu/E.
Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publication, May, 2009
————————————————————————————————-“Tai Chi & Qigong will play an important role in global awakening.”
Eckart Tolle, author of A New Earth (Oprah’s Book Club Pick)