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Chinese Taijiquan Fights Shingles
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A new study suggests that Chinese martial art taijiquan offers benefits beyond improving fitness and balance: It may help prevent shingles, a painful skin condition.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society quoted by the media Monday. 

Taijiquan, becoming increasingly popular in the West, is well known as a good low-impact exercise for older people, but researchers at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) find that it can also affect the immune system.

Though it remains unclear how it affects the immune system, health experts are encouraged by the positive results.

"One in five people who have had chickenpox will get shingles later in life, usually after age 50, and the risk increases as people get older," said NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. "More research is needed, but this study suggests that the taijiquan intervention tested, in combination with immunization, may enhance protection of older adults from this painful condition."

One hundred and twelve healthy adults took part in the study between the ages of 59 and 86. All participants had previously had chickenpox.

For three months, half of the group took part in taijiquan classes, and the other half attended health education classes. Six months following the study, the taijiquan group showed nearly twice the immunity level to shingles than did the health education group.

In addition, this group reported significant improvements in physical functioning, bodily pain, vitality and mental health. Both groups showed significant declines in the severity of depressive symptoms.

"These are exciting findings, because the positive results of this study also have implications for other infectious diseases, like influenza and pneumonia," said the director of the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology.

(Xinhua News Agency April 9, 2007)

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