Tai Chi, a traditional Chinese martial art and sport, may be able to slow down the ageing process, a new study has claimed.
Researchers found that people who performed Tai Chi saw a rise in their cluster of differentiation 34 expressing (CD34+) cells, a stem cell important to a number of the body's functions and structures.
"To evaluate the potential life-lengthening effect of Tai Chi, we conducted a year-long, retrospective cross-sectional study comparing the rejuvenating and anti-ageing effects among three groups of volunteers under the age of 25 who engaged in either Tai Chi (TCC), brisk walking (BW), or no exercise habit (NEH)," said study corresponding author Dr Shinn-Zong Lin of the Center for Neuropsychiatry, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan.
"We used young volunteers because they have better cell-renewing abilities than the old population and we also wanted to avoid having chronic diseases and medications as interfering factors," Lin said.
According to the study authors, Tai Chi "has been confirmed to benefit" patients with mild to moderate Parkinson's disease and fibromyalgia.
In addition, they cite possible advantages of Tai Chi in pain reduction, fall prevention and balance improvement, aerobic capacity, blood pressure, quality of life and stress reduction.
"Compared with the NEH group, the TCC group had a significantly higher number of CD34+ cells," wrote the authors in the journal Cell Transplantation.
"We found that the CD34+ cell count of the TCC group was significantly higher than the BW group," they said.
CD34+ cells express the CD34 protein and are "cluster markers" for hematopoietic stem cells (blood stem cells) involved in cell self-renewal, differentiation and proliferation.
"It is possible that Tai Chi may prompt vasodilation and increase blood flow," said Lin.
"Considering that BW may require a larger space or more equipment, Tai Chi seems to be an easier and more convenient choice of anti-ageing exercise," Lin said.