Background: Higher age is associated to a variety of physical and mental disorders. Age-related changes in steroid secretion have been suggested to be an underlying mechanism leading to frailty, depression, and sexual dysfunction. However, Tai chi qigong and similar forms of exercise have been shown to improve a great variety of health-related parameters in older individuals.
Methods: We examined 56 self-reporting healthy men actively practicing Tai chi qigong and/or self-defense Kung-fu and 55 age-matched self-reporting healthy controls. Saliva samples were obtained in a standardized procedure for subsequent quantification of circulating testosterone and cortisol levels. In addition, depressive symptoms, life satisfaction, and sexual health were assessesd via self-report questionnaires.
Results: Age was negatively associated with testosterone, while no association emerged for cortisol. Tai chi qigong and/or self-defense Kung-fu training was neither associated with testosterone nor cortisol. More weekly Tai chi qigong and/or self-defense Kung-fu training (4 or more times per week) was instead associated with a lower CT-ratio, less depressive symptoms, and higher life satisfaction compared to individuals, who trained only one to three times per week. More years of Tai chi qigong and/or self-defense Kung-fu training were associated with less depressive symptoms and higher life satisfaction but not with the CT-ratio. No significant associations emerged for Tai chi qigong and/or self-defense Kung-fu training and sexual health. When compared to the age-matched controls, there is a significant effect of Tai chi, qigong and/or self-defense Kung-fu on the CT-ratio. Contrast analyses revealed a significantly lower CT-ratio for the high training load group in contrast to the low training load group. Further, in contrast to the control group, the low training load group exhibits a significantly higher CT-ratio. For depression, contrast analyses revealed a significantly lower level of depression in the high training load group compared to the control group.
Conclusion: The results indicate that Tai chi qigong and/or self-defense Kung-fu training is beneficially associated with steroid secretion patterns and mental health in aging men, when training is performed with a frequency of 4 or more trainings per week. However, the high frequency training and control group show similar steroid secretion patterns suggesting an inverted U-shaped association between Tai chi qigong and/or self-defense Kung-fu training frequency and the CT-ratio in aging men. More research is needed to elucidate the underlying mechanism of this association. Still, Tai chi qigong and/or self-defense Kung-fu training provides a promising prevention strategy against age-related physical and mental deterioration in aging men.
Keywords: Aging; Cortisol; Depression; Kung-fu; Qigong; Satisfaction with life; Sexual function; Steroid secretion; Tai chi; Testosterone.
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.