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Moderate-intensity exercise has attracted considerable attention because of its safety and many health benefits. Tai Chi, a form of mind-body exercise that originated in ancient China, has been gaining popularity. Practicing Tai Chi may improve overall health and well-being; however, to our knowledge, no study has evaluated its relationship with mortality. We assessed the associations of regular exercise and specifically participation in Tai Chi, walking, and jogging with total and cause-specific mortality among 61,477 Chinese men in the Shanghai Men's Health Study (2002-2009). Information on exercise habits was obtained at baseline using a validated physical activity questionnaire. Deaths were ascertained through biennial home visits and linkage with a vital statistics registry. During a mean follow-up of 5.48 years, 2,421 deaths were identified. After adjustment for potential confounders, men who exercised regularly had a hazard ratio for total mortality of 0.80 (95% confidence interval: 0.74, 0.87) compared with men who did not exercise. The corresponding hazard ratios were 0.80 (95% confidence interval: 0.72, 0.89) for practicing Tai Chi, 0.77 (95% confidence interval: 0.69, 0.86) for walking, and 0.73 (95% confidence interval: 0.59, 0.90) for jogging. Similar inverse associations were also found for cancer and cardiovascular mortality. The present study provides the first evidence that, like walking and jogging, practicing Tai Chi is associated with reduced mortality.
OBJECTIVES - T'ai chi is a form of mind-body practice used as exercise in China, though limited data are available on characteristics of t'ai chi users and factors associated with practice.
METHODS - Characteristics of and factors associated with t'ai chi practice among middle-aged and elder Chinese in Shanghai China were analyzed utilizing baseline data from the Shanghai Women's Health Study and Shanghai Men's Health Study. Logistic regression modeling was used to identify independent factors associated with the practice of t'ai chi among men and women.
RESULTS - T'ai chi is the most common form of regular exercise in Shanghai China among middle-aged and elderly persons (22%), including among women (28%) and men (15%). Other popular forms of exercise were walking (7%), dancing (4%), and jogging (3%). A majority of adults who practiced t'ai chi used it as their exclusive type of exercise (69%). Overall, t'ai chi practitioners as compared to nonpractitioners were more likely women, older, more educated, retired versus still working, and more likely to report chronic medical conditions including pulmonary, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular conditions. T'ai chi activity was associated with other health behaviors including nonsmoking, consuming ginseng, and participating in other forms of physical exercise.
CONCLUSIONS - T'ai chi is the predominant form of exercise among middle-aged and elderly Chinese in urban China, particularly among those with older age and chronic medical diseases. Future research is needed to see whether t'ai chi has similar or different benefits than conventional forms of exercise such as walking and jogging.
BACKGROUND - Little is known in the United States about those who practice t'ai chi and qigong, two mind-body techniques that originated in Asia.
OBJECTIVE - The objective of this study is to characterize use of t'ai chi and qigong for health with regard to sociodemographics, health status, medical conditions, perceptions of helpfulness, and disclosure of use to medical professionals.
METHODS - We analyzed associations of t'ai chi and qigong use for health using cross-sectional data from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Alternative Medicine Supplement (n = 31,044). The 2002 NHIS estimated the number of t'ai chi and qigong users for health to be 2.5 and 0.5 million persons, respectively. We collapsed t'ai chi and qigong use into a single category (TCQ) for analysis, representing 2.8 million individuals.
RESULTS - We found that neither age nor sex was associated with TCQ use. TCQ users were more likely than nonusers to be Asian than white (odds ratio [OR] 2.02, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.30-3.15), college educated (OR 2.44, 95% CI 1.97-3.03), and less likely to live in the Midwest (OR 0.64, 95% CI 0.42-0.96) or the southern United States (OR 0.51, 95% CI 0.36-0.72) than the West. TCQ use was associated independently with higher reports of musculoskeletal conditions (OR 1.43, 95% CI 1.11-1.83), severe sprains (OR 1.65, 95% CI 1.14-2.40), and asthma (OR 1.50, 95% CI 1.08-2.10). Half of TCQ users also used yoga for health in the last 12 months. Most TCQ users reported their practice to be important to maintain health, but only a quarter of users disclosed their practice to a medical professional.
CONCLUSIONS - In the United States, TCQ is practiced for health by a diverse population, and users report benefits for maintaining health. Further research is needed to establish efficacy and safety for target populations, including those with musculoskeletal and pulmonary disease, as well as for preventive health.