Background: The duration and vigour of physical exercise are widely considered to be critical elements that may positively or negatively affect physical health and immune response.
Objectives: To investigate the effect of a 12 week programme of regular tai chi chuan exercise (TCC) on functional mobility, beliefs about benefits of exercise on physical and psychological health, and immune regulation in middle aged volunteers.
Methods: This quasi-experimental research design involving one group with testing before and after the programme was conducted to measure the effect of 12 weeks of TCC exercise in 14 men and 23 women from the normal community.
Results: Regular TCC exercise had a highly significant positive effect on functional mobility (p = 0.001) and beliefs about the health benefits of exercise (p = 0.013) in the 37 participants. Total white blood cell and red blood cell count did not change significantly, but a highly significant (p<0.001) decrease in monocyte count occurred. A significant (p = 0.05) increase in the ratio of T helper to suppressor cells (CD4:CD8) was found, along with a significant (p = 0.015) increase in CD4CD25 regulatory T cells. Production of the regulatory T cell mediators transforming growth factor beta and interleukin 10 under specific antigen stimulation (varicella zoster virus) was also significantly increased after this exercise programme.
Conclusions: A 12 week programme of regular TCC exercise enhances functional mobility, personal health expectations, and regulatory T cell function.