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How Tai Chi can improve bone mineral density

Dear students. This is quite a long medical research document on taiji and bone density. But areas of interest are at the end of page 9 and page 10. It is regarding one of the forms we practice at Mings Martial Arts, being:  the Beijing form or 24 step form of Tai Chi.

The study “Effect of different types of Tai Chi exercise programs on the rate of change in bone mineral density in middle-aged adults at risk of osteoporosis: a randomized controlled trial” by Jianda Kong, Chunlan Tian, and Lei Zhu explored how various Tai Chi exercise programs influence bone mineral density (BMD) in middle-aged adults at risk of osteoporosis. The research found that the 24-style Tai Chi (24TCC) program was particularly effective in improving BMD compared to other Tai Chi programs.

Movement Characteristics

The 24TCC program includes 24 distinct movements that emphasize smoothness and continuity, which engage various joints and provide diverse and intense mechanical stimuli to the skeletal system. This variety and intensity are believed to lead to significant adaptations in bone tissue, enhancing BMD. Key aspects of 24TCC include:

  • Smooth Movements: These promote overall joint health and provide consistent mechanical stimuli.
  • Weight Shifting and Resistance Exercises: These exercises apply mechanical stress to bones, stimulating bone remodeling and increasing BMD.
  • Weighted Movements: Activities such as single-leg standing and transitions between different stances contribute positively to BMD.
  • Basic Tai Chi Principles: Correct body posture, mindful movement, and coordinated breathing are emphasized, optimizing the transfer of strength and energy during practice, thus improving bone health.

Physiological and Biochemical Mechanisms

The benefits of 24TCC in improving BMD also involve several physiological mechanisms:

  • Neuromuscular Activity and Skeletal Muscle Recruitment: The integration of body alignment, breathing techniques, and mindful coordination during 24TCC movements enhances neuromuscular activity, potentially stimulating bone metabolism and improving BMD.
  • Release of Growth Factors and Hormones: Specific movements like “brush knee twist step” and “wave hands like clouds” generate intensity and impact, promoting the release of growth factors such as IGF-1 and TGF-β. These molecules support bone health, osteoblast function, and bone formation.

The study concludes that the unique characteristics and physiological impacts of the 24-style Tai Chi make it a particularly beneficial practice for improving bone mineral density in individuals at risk of osteoporosis.