The benefit is an increase in cell-mediated immunity to varicella zoster virus and improved health functioning in older adults.

It’s important because “cell-mediated immunity to varicella zoster virus is thought to be pivotal in determining the risk of herpes zoster,” writes Dr. Michael Irwin from the University of California in Los Angeles.

“Efforts to elicit increases in varicella zoster virus-specific cell-mediated immunity might provide protection against herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the details.

  • 112 healthy older adults (59 to 86 years) practiced Tai Chi Chih or received health education for 25 weeks.
  • 16 weeks after starting the program, evereyone was vaccinated with Varivax, the live attenuated Oka/Merck VZV vaccine to prevent varicella.

And the results.

  • Compared with health education, the Tai Chi Chih group had nearly twice the levels of cell-mediated immunity to varicella zoster virus.
  • The change with Tai Chi Chih alone was comparable to that induced by varicella vaccine.
  • Tai Chi Chih plus vaccine lead to substantially higher cell-mediated immunity than the vaccine alone.
  • The Tai Chi Chih group also had significant improvements in SF-36 scores for physical functioning, bodily pain, vitality, and mental health.

These results support an earlier study by the same group of researchers at UCLA using Tai Chi Chih — a westernized version of the traditional Chinese tai chi that includes aerobic activity, relaxation, and meditation.

The bottom line?
The next step is to show a change in the incidence of shingles using Tai Chi Chih.

This is an example of a study supported by your tax dollars through The National Institute of Aging and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

4/21/07 10:48 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.