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Tai Chi as lifestyle: less cortisol, more DHEA

Practising the gentle Chinese martial art of Tai Chi boosts the concentration of DHEA in the body and also lowers the concentration of cortisol. Researchers in Taiwan discovered this when they compared a group of 17 Tai Chi practitioners with a group of 17 physically inactive Taiwanese.

Tai Chi as lifestyle: less cortisol, more DHEA

Tai Chi as lifestyle: less cortisol, more DHEA
The researchers, working at the National Taiwan Sports University, studied 17 people who practised Tai Chi and a group of 17 physically inactive people. The average age of the participants was 53-54. The Tai Chi group practised at least three times a week, doing a session of at least 40 minutes long, and had been doing so for at least four years.

The Tai Chi practitioners were at first glance lighter and little slimmer than the non-active participants, and they were also physically stronger. The differences were not significant, however.

Tai Chi as lifestyle: less cortisol, more DHEA

In terms of muscle strength: the researchers did not correct for bodyweight or lean body mass. If they had done so, there may have been a significant difference.

There was no difference between the concentrations of testosterone, HDL, LDL and triglycerides in the blood of the participants of both groups. But there were differences in the concentrations of DHEA and cortisol. The researchers found much more DHEA-S and less cortisol in the Tai Chi group.

Tai Chi as lifestyle: less cortisol, more DHEA

Tai Chi as lifestyle: less cortisol, more DHEA


"Well-being encompasses not only the physical body but also the spiritual, mental and emotional parts of an individuals life," the researchers wrote. "Tai Chi has integrative powers that affect mind-body-spirit connections."

"For example, Tai Chi has been characterized as a method that focuses on the interactions between the brain, the nervous system, the mind, the endocrine glands and behavior, with the intent of using such mind-body connections to promote health."

"Therefore, the ancient Chinese mind-body-spirit exercise of Tai Chi may provide an alternative and self-sustaining option when coping with the stress and anxiety associated with a fast-paced metropolitan life without any requirement for specialized gymnasium equipment."

"At the same time, Tai Chi exercise training has been reported to reduce cortisol levels in healthy individuals as well as cancer survivors. [J Cancer Surviv. 2015 Mar;9(1):115-25.] It is also interesting to note that Tai Chi practitioners exhibit lower cortisol levels and a reduced heart rate when subjected to a psychosocial stress test."

"Therefore, Tai Chi is likely to help practitioners to take problems/difficulties in their stride and allow them to solve such events calmly and more easily at the right moment."

Chin J Physiol. 2017 Apr 30;60(2):124-30.

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