Tai Chi is a very comprehensive and effective form of mental and nervous system training. Numerous studies have shown that Tai Chi creates positive changes in both the brain and body’s physiology that can not only prevent but also improve conditions such as Information Fatigue Syndrome (also known as Information Overload Syndrome) and Alzheimer’s Disease. Many senior centers with free or low cost yearly membership fees, such as the Winter Park, FL Senior Center, offer free weekly Tai Chi classes to the local public for this reason. [8] There are also many available free Tai Chi classes offered in many public parks in the U.S. such as a free Tai Chi meet up group with 1,701 members in a park in Long Beach, CA offered weekly on Sundays. [16]

Once learned, Tai Chi can be practiced long-term free of charge in any location either solo or in a group setting, indoors or outdoors, making it an accessible form of low impact aerobic exercise suitable for all ages and fitness levels. It not only works the body, but also because it includes a complex, dance-like, learned motor sequence, it creates a sustained focus of attention and meditative state. Numerous studies have shown that mind-body practices like Tai Chi that incorporate focused attention, meditation and motor learning promote positive changes in brain structure and function in addition to the physical benefits of sustainable increased strength, mobility, flexibility and balance.[1]

Here is a list of the Top 5 Brain and Body Benefits of Tai Chi proven in research studies published between 2003 and 2018:

1. Promotes brain growth and regeneration: Seniors who practiced Tai Chi three times a week for 40 weeks increased their gray matter brain volume in the Hippocampus learning and memory regions. Such increases in brain volume have been achieved in as little as 8 weeks after a mindfulness-stress reduction program. [2]

2. Increases brain function: Tai Chi helps to train the brain to work more efficiently and effectively. Practicing as little as three days a week has been shown to increase memory retention, ability to focus on tasks, and the ability to make more conscious and less emotionally reactive decisions in a short amount of time. Those with a daily 40-minute mind-body practice of meditation like Tai Chi, had thicker cortical walls of the brain than those who did not practice meditation. Thickness of cortical walls has been linked to cognitive decline. Study participants with a 40-minute meditation practice for as little as 8 weeks showed an increase in cortical wall thickness and faster decision making, greater focus and better memory. [2]

3. Reduces stress and sustains emotional stability: Engaging in a habit of a meditative practice like Tai Chi, increases neuroplasticity, which is the process by which the brain’s neural pathways are reorganized by our life experiences. The quality of our neuroplasticity dictates our brain’s ability to rewire its neural net and functioning capacity in reaction to our lives. The quality of our brain’s neural net is the basis of our emotional stability. [3] Studies have also shown that higher levels of gamma wave activity are present in people who meditate that enable them to prevent themselves from getting stuck in overthinking patterns. [4]

4. Increases physical strength with cardiovascular and immune benefits: Studies have shown that a Tai Chi master is 14 times stronger than his body weight. The master’s full-strength blow accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in less than three seconds. [6] “The transmission of the force is ensured by the fascial integrity, which is expressed by the motor activity produced; the tension produced by the sarcomeres results in muscle activity, using the various layers of the contractile districts (epimysium, perimysium, endomysium), with different directions and speed.” [5] Other studies at Stanford and elsewhere have shown that adult practitioners gain balance, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and immune benefits. [6,7]

5. Maintains flexibility, mobility, balance and range of motion for arthritis pain: Tai Chi has been shown to greatly improve arthritic pain, balance and physical mobility and functioning after just 12 weeks of practice in older women with Osteo Arthritis. These patients had 35% less pain, 29% less Stiffness and 29% more ability to perform tasks of daily living, as well as improved abdominal muscles and better balance. [7,9]

In our modern world plagued by the overstimulation of information overload due to our hyper focus and dependence upon constantly engaging with technology to multitask and access larger and larger amounts of data, mind-body mindful practices such as Tai Chi are becoming a very necessary form of mental and nervous system training at any age. Simply stopping the information binge consumption that has become the “normal” way of life in the western world is proving to be vital to the health, functioning and productivity of the human brain, physiology and society at large today. Our normal way of life of constant exposure to text messages, emails, billboards, commercials, urban traffic, electricity, radiation and noise is overwhelming beyond the capacity of our brains and nervous systems to process, “Individual cognitive capacity is often presented as a central cause of information overload. Miller’s seminal work illuminates human limitations both in “bandwidth” and in numeric processing: a human can process about seven “chunks” of data at a time [10], and tends to subitize items in groups of fewer than seven but estimate items in groups of greater than seven (Miller, 1956).” [10] This daily overload results in symptoms of stress that impeded people’s ability to function in their rolls in society at work and at home, “In his book, Stopping: How to Be Still When You Have to Keep Going, psychotherapist Dr. David Kundtz talks about patients who come to him “at the end of their rope” and in tears. While they are highly successful, very intelligent professionals, they are “in trouble: anxious, stressed, unfocused, irritable, unable to sleep, overwhelmed by life, and frustrated” with their inability to manage it (Kundtz 1998).” [11]

As we are fast approaching living in a society with the largest aging population in history within the next decade, recognizing the absolute necessity of building mind-body practices like Tai Chi into our modern society’s lifestyle is further proving to be timely and essential right now in 2019, not just to solve the problem of Information Fatigue Syndrome, but also Alzheimer’s Disease, “By 2029, when all of the baby boomers will be 65 years and over, more than 20 percent of the total U.S. population will be over the age of 65.” [13] Without utilizing mind-body practices such as Tai Chi for prevention and improvement of conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, our world will inevitably have the highest epidemic of Alzheimer’s Disease patients that the world has ever seen for the next 50 years in these aging baby boomers. The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association March 2012 article states that “One in 8 people over age 65 in the United States has Alzheimer’s disease and nearly 50% over age 85. In 2014, an estimated 5.2 million people in the United States [were] living with Alzheimer’s disease.” [14]

Such an Alzheimer’s epidemic outbreak within the next 10 years by 2029 will be a huge burden on a society that is already suffering from Information Fatigue Syndrome, requiring tens of millions of already overwhelmed Americans to become caregivers with hundreds of billions of dollars in costs of care, “Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the united states. MORE THAN 16 MILLION AMERICANS PROVIDE UNPAID CARE FOR PEOPLE WITH ALZHEIMER’S OR OTHER DEMENTIAS. THESE CAREGIVERS PROVIDED AN ESTIMATED 18.5 BILLION HOURS OF CARE VALUED AT NEARLY $234 BILLION.” [15] In light of these facts, Tai Chi as a free, accessible, self-care modality for all ages that can prevent and reduce the effects of both Information Fatigue Syndrome and Alzheimer’s Disease, becomes a vital solution to the impending baby boomer Alzheimer’s epidemic and caregiver burden that will sweep the world over the next decade. It is not only in our own self best interest to start practicing Tai Chi this year, but it also is in the best interest for our entire society for decades to come. With a free cost and the only side effects being a better quality of life and healthy aging, practicing Tai Chi as an answer to Information Fatigue Syndrome and Alzheimer’s Disease is hard to beat.

References: 1. Porter Brown, N. (2018). Easing Ills through Tai Chi. [online] Harvard Magazine. Retrieved from: https://harvardmagazine.com/2010/01/researchers-study-tai-chi-benefits 2. Mortimer JA, Ding D, Borenstein AR, DeCarli C, Guo Q, Wu Y, Zhao Q, Chu S. (2012, 30(4):757-66. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2012-120079) Changes in brain volume and cognition in a randomized trial of exercise and social interaction in a community-based sample of non-demented Chinese elders. Journal of Alzheimers Disease (JAD). Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22451320 3. Lazar, PhD, S., Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program (2011) Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in 8 weeks. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging. Retrieved from: https://www.massgeneral.org/about/pressrelease.aspx?id=1329 4. Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). (2012, November 12). Meditation appears to produce enduring changes in emotional processing in the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121112150339.htm 5. Romain, S. K. (2014) 3 Ways Tai Chi Trains the Brain. [online] Life Blog Huffington Post. Retrieved from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-romain/tai-chi-health_b_5434837.html 6. Bordoni, B., & Zanier, E. (2014). Clinical and symptomatological reflections: the fascial system. Journal of multidisciplinary healthcare, 7, 401–411. doi:10.2147/JMDH.S68308. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4173815/ 7. Conger, K. (2008) Tai Chi Master Studied for Power to Control Body Stanford Medicine News Center [online] Retrieved from: https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2008/05/tai-chi-master-studied-for-power-to-control-body.html 8. Winter Park Senior Center (2019) [online] Retrieved from: https://www.winterparkha.org/activities-for-seniors-at-the-winter-park-community-center/ 9. Lam, P. (2003) Tai Chi for Arthritis Journal of Rheumatology Retrieved from: https://taichiforhealthinstitute.org/a-published-study-tai-chi-for-arthritis/ 10. Lincoln, A. UC Berkeley School of Information (2011) FYI: TMI: Toward a Holistic Theory of Information Overload First Monday Peer Reviewed Journal on the Internet [online] Retrieved From: https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3051/2835 11. Ruff, J. (2002) Information Overload: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions LILA Briefing Learning Innovations Laboratories, Harvard Graduate School of Education Retrieved from: https://workplacepsychology.net/2011/05/18/information-overload-when-information-becomes-noise/, https://workplacepsychology.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/information_overload_causes_symptoms_and_solutions_ruff.pdf 13. Colby, S. Ortman, J. (2014) The Baby Boom Cohort in the United States 2012-2060 Population Estimates and Projections Census Current Population Reports Retrieved from: https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p25-1141.pdf 14. Alzheimer’s Association. (March 2012 8:131-168) 2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimer’s and Dementia The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved from: http://www.insidedementia.com/about-dementia/ 15. Alzheimer’s Association (2019) Retrieved from: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures 16. Meet Up (2019) [online] https://www.meetup.com/Tai-Chi-Long-Beach-for-Beginners/

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