Comparison of the effects of Tai Chi Chuan and Wai Tan Kung exercises on autonomic nervous system modulation and on hemodynamics in elder adults

Wan-An Lu, Cheng-Deng Kuo
American Journal of Chinese Medicine 2006, 34 (6): 959-68
The health of the middle-aged and elderly people is a major concern given the rapid aging population and rising costs of medical care. Low-impact exercise on a regular basis is ideal for maintaining the well-being of an aging population. Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) is the most well-known and most widely practiced form of low-impact martial arts therapy and has been shown to have positive health effects. A lesser-known form of martial arts therapy is Wai Tan Kung (WTK), which our previous study found to have positive health effects as well. The present study compares the effects of TCC and WTK on autonomic nervous system modulation and on hemodynamics in adults among non-exercising control (30), TCC practitioners (30) and WTK practitioners (30). Our study found that in a short-term, WTK and TCC exercises enhanced the vagal modulation, lowered the sympathetic modulation and lowered arterial blood pressures in the practitioners. It was also observed that the forced vital capacity of TCC practitioners was significantly higher than that of WTK practitioners before exercise. There were no significant differences in the percentage changes in HRV measures and hemodynamics between WTK and TCC practitioners 30 and 60 min after exercise, indicating that the effects of WTK and TCC were similar in magnitude. In conclusion, TCC and WTK are comparable to each other in terms of their effects on autonomic nervous system modulation and hemodynamics, thus suggesting that WTK can be just as beneficial as TCC as a form of low-impact exercise for elderly adults.

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