Tai Chi for Prostate Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime. 

In 2021, estimates show 248,530 prostate cancer cases will be diagnosed. 

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer-related cause of death in American men, right after lung cancer. 

Most men diagnosed with this disease don’t die from it. 

Timely diagnosis and treatment increase the chance of recovery and improve a patient’s quality of life. 

There’s a lot you can do to feel better as a prostate cancer patient and tai chi could help. 

Read on to learn why tai chi is so beneficial for men with prostate cancer and those who want to prevent it. 

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What is Tai Chi?

Tai chi is a type of martial art developed in China centuries ago. 

Initially, tai chi served for self-defense, but today it is referred to as “meditation in motion”. 

It is a major component of traditional Chinese medicine. Also known as tai chi chuan, this practice combines breathing and relaxation with flowing movements. 

Tai chi is a graceful form of exercise where you perform slow and gentle movements as you are focused and practicing deep breathing. 

It’s not fast-paced like aerobic exercise, but it could increase your aerobic capacity slightly through improved muscular strength. 

The noncompetitive and self-paced type of exercise revolves around gentle stretching and proper posture. 

The goal is to be calm as possible but to ensure your body is constantly in motion. 

While it’s easy to confuse tai chi with yoga, it’s important to clarify they’re not the same. 

Rooted in Chinese culture, tai chi is a practice characterized by fluid movement. 

Yoga, which originated in northern India, focuses on posing. 

Both types of exercise have deep breathing and focus in common. 

6 Benefits of Tai Chi

Tai chi is a healing exercise. 

Many people worldwide practice it to improve their health, such as managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, blood pressure, or heart disease. 

Indeed, the tai chi benefits are numerous, but we’re going to focus on the six most important health effects below:

1) Decreased chronic pain from arthritis 

A growing body of evidence confirms tai chi practitioners with rheumatoid arthritis and knee osteoarthritis may experience less joint pain and improved mobility from tai chi.

2) Reduced stress 

The most significant health benefits of tai chi is its potential to decrease stress and anxiety, and it could be more effective than other forms of exercise. 

Stress-lowering effects of tai chi stem from deep breathing and flowing movements.

3) Improved mood 

Studies show tai chi can help manage anxiety and depression symptoms by improving your mood.

4) Improved balance 

Better balance and motor function thereby reduce the risk of falls in older adults. 

Tai chi can improve balance in persons with Parkinson’s disease too.

5) Fibromyalgia management 

The consistent tai chi practice can reduce fibromyalgia symptoms and improve the quality of life in patients with this and other chronic conditions.

6) Better cognitive functioning

Tai chi exhibits positive effects on cognitive function. This is especially true in adults without existing cognitive impairment. 

Tai Chi Moves to Try

Tai chi is usually taught and practiced in groups in community centers, health centers, schools, you name it. 

You can easily find and sign up for a tai chi class. 

There are different types of tai chi exercises including Chen style. 

Regardless of the tai chi style, before you start practicing tai chi, you need to warm up. 

Below are some of the most useful tai chi movement examples to try, especially if you’re a beginner.

Part the horse mane

Step 1

Stand up straight and bring both hands in one on top of the other. 

Make sure there’s space in the middle and that your palms are facing each other.

Step 2

Shift your weight to the foot on the same side as the top hand.

Step 3

Bring the opposite leg in front of you as you’re shifting the weight to the front leg. And move the bottom hand forwards.

Step 4

The other hand comes back and down.

Brush the knee

Step 1

Start this move in a T stance where one leg is forward, slightly bent, and carries 10% of your weight and 90% of your weight supported by the other leg.

Step 2

Lift one hand, making sure your palm is facing front. The other hand should be in front of the body, and the palm is facing down.

Step 3

Twist the body at the waist as you bring one foot forward and also push the raised hand forward too.

Step 4

Put the opposite hand down.

Step 5

Circle arms back to starting position.

Warrior and scholar

Step 1

Relax hands at the sides and put feet together.

Step 2

Inhale while bending your knees.

Step 3

The left hand should be flat, right hand in a fist.

Step 4

Cover fist with a left hand and lift up.

Step 5

Proceed to make a straight-legged stance.

Step 6

Exhale and return to starting position. 

Your tai chi instructor can recommend the most beneficial moves you can make and show to perform them.

The link between tai chi and prostate cancer

Studies on the link between tai chi and prostate cancer treatment are scarce. 

One study showed tai chi practice during radiation for prostate cancer led to improvements in sleep duration

This effect wasn’t durable, though. 

However, a study on the role of tai chi and qigong exercises on the quality of life of cancer patients showed these practices are beneficial. 

The study focused on cancer patients in general. 

It found tai chi can address various physical and psychological morbidities that cancer patients face. 

Evidence also shows simplicity makes tai chi better for cancer patients than other forms of physical exercise. 

This simplicity allows beginners to keep practicing tai chi with confidence and ease. 

Scientists emphasize the importance of further studies to uncover mechanisms of action through which tai chi improves survival and quality of life in cancer patients.

As a type of alternative or complementary medicine, tai chi can generate a positive energy force by establishing a balance between two opposing internal forces within your body. 

This balance improves the flow of chi (qi) and thereby may improve your health.

Tai chi could help improve mobility and energy levels in men who are undergoing prostate cancer treatment

This healing exercise relieves stress and promotes relaxation, thus helping prostate cancer patients decrease anxiety levels brought on by their illness. 

It also gives you a way to maintain physical activity, improve fitness level, and improve muscle strength after prostate cancer surgery, such as radical prostatectomy, a course of androgen deprivation therapy, and radiation therapy. 

Tai chi could be a safe and low-impact form of physical therapy for prostate cancer patients.

Tai chi improves physical and mental health in prostate cancer patients. 

But more medical research is necessary to elucidate all its effects. 

How useful is Tai Chi in prostate cancer prevention?

Since the evidence on this subject is limited, it’s hard to answer this question from a scientific point of view. However, tai chi could help lower your prostate cancer risk

How?

Evidence shows tai chi sessions can improve lower urinary tract symptoms and quality of life in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or an enlarged prostate

While prostate enlargement is not considered a risk factor for prostate cancer, some studies show otherwise. 

Research shows enlarged prostate can increase the risk of prostate cancer and bladder cancer

While BPH and prostate cancer link on a molecular and cellular level, the causality can’t be confirmed.

By protecting the prostate from BPH, tai chi could lower the risk of prostate cancer too.

Other potential mechanisms behind prostate cancer prevention including minimizing stress and maintaining a healthier weight. 

What the experts say

Even though tai chi has many health benefits and could improve prostate health, it does not replace standard care. 

You shouldn’t use tai chi as the only strategy to prevent or manage prostate cancer. 

Instead, it should be one segment of a healthy lifestyle. 

Tai chi doesn’t replace doctor-recommended treatments and recommendations. 

Further studies are required to learn more about tai chi and prostate health.

Other ways to prevent prostate cancer 

The truth is there is no sure way to prevent prostate cancer. 

Some risk factors are uncontrollable such as race, age, and family history. 

However, other risk factors are controllable because they’re tied to your lifestyle. 

Some useful ways to reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer include:

  • Consume tomatoes and other red foods because they contain lycopene, an antioxidant that lowers the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. 
  • Drink coffee every day.
  • Replace animal-based fats with plant-based fats.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Exercise regularly
  • Drink green tea.
  • Avoid charred meat.
  • Maintain weight in a healthy range.
  • Avoid or reduce alcohol intake. 
  • Increase intake of vitamin D.
  • Stay sexually active

Conclusion

Tai chi has been around for centuries. 

This healing exercise has a lot of health benefits, and tai chi may aid the management of prostate cancer. 

Unfortunately, this subject is poorly explored and deserves further research and systematic review to elucidate mechanisms underlying the management and prevention of prostate cancer.

Next Up

how-to-prevent-prostate-cancer

Find out some more Prostate Cancer Prevention Strategies and How To Reduce Your Risk.

Sources

  1. Uhlig T, Fongen C, Steen E, Christie A, Ødegård S. Exploring Tai Chi in rheumatoid arthritis: a quantitative and qualitative study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2010. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20205741/
  2. Wang C, Schmid CH, Hibberd PL, et al. Tai Chi is effective in treating knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum. 2009. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3023169/
  3. Yeung, Albert & Chan, Jessie S. M. & Cheung, Joey & Zou, Liye & Qigong, Tai-Chi. (2017). Qigong and Tai-Chi for Mood Regulation. Focus (American Psychiatric Publishing).  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321299648_Qigong_and_Tai-Chi_for_Mood_Regulation 
  4. McQuade JL, Prinsloo S, Chang DZ, et al. Qigong/tai chi for sleep and fatigue in prostate cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy: a randomized controlled trial. Psychooncology. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5378667/ 
  5. Smith L, Gordon D, Scruton A, Yang L. The potential yield of Tai Chi in cancer survivorship. Future Sci OA. 2016;2(4):FSO152. Published 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5242198/ 
  6. Seil Jung, Eun-Nam Lee, Sook-Ryon Lee, Mi-Sook Kim, Myeong Soo Lee, “Tai Chi for Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms and Quality of Life in Elderly Patients with Benign Prostate Hypertrophy: A Randomized Controlled Trial”, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2012, Article ID 624692, 7 pages, 2012. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/624692/ 
  7. Dai X, Fang X, Ma Y, Xianyu J. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia and the Risk of Prostate Cancer and Bladder Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4863764/
  8. Miah S, Catto J. BPH and prostate cancer risk. Indian J Urol. 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3989826/ 
Alternative Text

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Founder of ZayedMD, Dr. Ahmed believes in making the knowledge as accessible as possible to patients. He had his work featured in reputable publications such as The Huffington Post. Other than his passion for writing, Dr. Ahmed spends​ his time outside the hospital at the gym or with a good book.

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