Seen in Older Adults After Taking Martial Art
29, 2007 -- Tai chi, a traditional Chinese martial art, may give older
adults' immune system a boost. That news comes from experts at UCLA
and the University of California, San Diego. They included Michael
Irwin, MD, who is the Norman Cousins Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA's
Semel Institute for Neuroscience and the co-director of UCLA's Cousins
Center for Psychoneuroimmunology. Irwin's team studied 112 healthy
adults aged 59-86 (average age: 70) for about six months. First, the
researchers split participants into two groups. One group took tai
chi classes three times a week for 16 weeks. Each class lasted 40
minutes and included a set of 20 tai chi exercises. The other group
took a health education class -- with no tai chi lessons -- for the
same amount of time.
the 16-week programs ended, the researchers gave all participants
a single shot of Varivax, a vaccine that targets the varicella zoster
virus that causes chickenpox and shingles.
the next nine weeks, participants periodically had their blood tested
to check for antibodies against the virus.
who had taken the tai chi classes mounted a stronger immune system
response to the vaccine than those in the health education class.
the end of the 25-week study, the tai chi students' immune system
response was nearly twice that of the health education students.
Chi a Vaccine Booster?
are exciting findings," Irwin says in a UCLA news release. He
notes that age often dims the immune system response to vaccines.
study "suggests that tai chi is an approach that might complement
and augment the efficacy of other vaccines," such as the influenza
vaccine, Irwin says.
chi isn't just about working your muscles. Its slow, graceful movements
also have a meditative aspect. It's not clear which aspects of tai
chi were most helpful to participants in the study.
The report appears in the April edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
of the American Geriatrics Society
To cite this article:
R. Irwin MD, Richard Olmstead PhD, Michael N. Oxman MD (2007)
M. R., Olmstead, R., Oxman, M. N. (2007) Augmenting Immune Responses
to Varicella Zoster Virus in Older Adults: A Randomized, Controlled
Trial of Tai Chi
Immune Responses to Varicella Zoster Virus in Older Adults: A Randomized,
Controlled Trial of Tai Chi
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the effects of a behavioral intervention, Tai Chi, on resting and vaccine-stimulated levels of cell-mediated immunity (CMI) to varicella zoster virus (VZV) and on health functioning in older adults.
DESIGN: A prospective, randomized, controlled trial with allocation to two arms (Tai Chi and health education) for 25 weeks. After 16 weeks of intervention, subjects were vaccinated with VARIVAX, the live attenuated Oka/Merck VZV vaccine licensed to prevent varicella.
SETTING: Two urban U.S. communities between 2001 and 2005.
PARTICIPANTS: A total of 112 healthy older adults aged 59 to 86.
MEASUREMENTS: The primary endpoint was a quantitative measure of VZV-CMI. Secondary outcomes were scores on the Medical Outcomes Study 36-item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36).
RESULTS: The Tai Chi group showed higher levels of VZV-CMI than the health education group (P<.05), with a significant rate of increase (P<.001) that was nearly twice that found in the health education group. Tai Chi alone induced an increase in VZV-CMI that was comparable in magnitude with that induced by varicella vaccine, and the two were additive; Tai Chi, together with vaccine, produced a substantially higher level of VZV-CMI than vaccine alone. The Tai Chi group also showed significant improvements in SF-36 scores for physical functioning, bodily pain, vitality, and mental health (P<.05).
CONCLUSION: Tai Chi augments resting levels of VZV-specific CMI and boosts VZV-CMI of the varicella vaccine.