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For Health Benefits, Try Tai Chi

The 2,000-year-old Chinese practice of tai chi is a branch of Qigong -- exercises that harness the qi (life energy). Tai chi has been linked to numerous health benefits, including improvements in the quality of life of breast cancer patients and Parkinson’s sufferers. It has shown promise in treating sleep problems and high blood pressure.

A recent study found that tai chi promotes balance, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, and strength. A group of research subjects who practiced tai chi improved more than 30 percent in lower-body strength and 25 percent in arm strength -- nearly as much as a weight-training group and more than people who took up walking as exercise.

According to U.S. News & World Report:

“... [I]n 85 percent of trials, tai chi lowered blood pressure. Other studies have shown it to reduce blood levels of B-type natriuretic peptide, a precursor of heart failure, and to maintain bone density in postmenopausal women.”