Invest 20 Minutes — Gain Health and Peace of Mind


yoga and tai chi

What if by investing just 20 minutes a day in an activity you could reduce stress, create a calm and peaceful frame of mind, improve strength and agility, boost your immune system AND lower your blood pressure?

Twenty minutes doesn't seem like a huge amount of time to invest when you reap such wonderful health benefits. According to the October 2009 Mayo Clinic Health Letter, all of these benefits may be attained by simply doing 20 minutes of yoga or tai chi daily.

Benefits of Yoga and Tai Chi

According to the Mayo Clinic, yoga and tai chi offer many benefits.  Core stability, strength training, flexibility and balance exercises and aerobic exercises are combined into unified approaches in both tai chi and yoga. Many people report immediate benefits after just one session, such as stress reduction and an easier time falling and staying asleep at night.

Patients practicing yoga and tai chi report better overall health, but one aspect to note is an improvement in bowel and digestive health. People suffering from constipation report natural relief, and people with irritable bowel syndrome report a decrease in symptoms. This may be the result of the gentle exercises, the stress relief associated with the exercises, or some combination of factors. Another health complaint that cleared up with 10 to 12 weeks of routine yoga practice was migraine headaches.  Participants in one study who regularly did hatha yoga reported that their migraine headaches cleared up.
Still more benefits that researchers have identified include:

•    Improved range of motion and flexibility, particularly for the elderly.
•    Reduction in anxiety and depression among patients practicing yoga
•    Improvements in bone density from either yoga and tai chi practice
•    Improved cardiovascular health from either yoga or tai chi

Major Study Demonstrates Tai Chi can Help People with Diabetes

"Tai chi really has similar effects as other aerobic exercises on diabetic control. The difference is tai chi is a low impact exercise, which means that it's less stressful on the bones, joints and muscles than more strenuous exercise," said Beverly Roberts, Ph.D., R.N. the Annabel Davis Jenks endowed professor at the University of Florida College of Nursing in a recent press release. Dr. Roberts and her colleagues studied tai chi's effects on older Korean people participating in a study to assess tai chi's effects on glucose levels.  The study, as reported in the June issues of The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, followed 62 participants for six months.  Most of the participants were Korean women.  Half of the group participated in at least 80% of two supervised tai chi sessions. These sessions lasted one hour per week. They also practiced tai chi at home for three days a week. The other half of the study participants acted as the control group. At the end of the study, the patients actively practicing tai chi had lower blood glucose readings at three and six months, and lower hemoglobin A 1c, which Dr. Roberts says indicates better diabetic control.

While the researchers running the study caution that additional studies are needed before drawing conclusions, the results are very promising. The benefits of tai chi for diabetics appear to be the same as the benefits of engaging in vigorous aerobic exercise. Because tai chi is low impact, the implication is that diabetics with health conditions that prohibit strenuous aerobic exercise may be able to participate in tai chi instead and gain the same benefits.

How to Learn Yoga and Tai Chi

If you're interested in trying yoga or tai chi, there are many ways to learn. Local exercise studios, colleges, adult education programs at high schools, and even the YMCA may offer classes in either yoga or tai chi; some hospitals now even offer yoga courses as part of their continuing education programs for the community. 

There are many videotapes and DVD's that demonstrates the movements of tai chi and yoga. You can purchase them, or visit your local public library to borrow a video.

Some exercise programs are also on television, and many PBS stations continue to broadcast such classics as "Lilias", the yoga course with instructor Lilias Folan.

If none of these ideas appeal to you, what about You Tube? This free video channel online offers many video resources.  Other websites may also offer free instructional content.

Yoga and tai chi offer innumerable benefits for body, mind and spirit. Try these gentle exercises today. Investing just 20 minutes every day may improve your quality of life for years to come.

These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration.  The preceding information and/or products are for educational purposes only and are not meant to diagnose, prescribe, or treat illness. Please consult your doctor before making any changes or before starting ANY exercise or nutritional supplement program or before using this information or any product during pregnancy or if you have a serious medical condition.

Written by:  Jeanne Grunert
Copyright 2009 All rights reserved