This is the preface to a new book: “Tai Chi Therapy: The Science of Metarobics,” By Pete Gryffin, PhD, MS. (There is information below about finding out more about this topic and about how and where to buy the book.)
Over the past 15 years of teaching Tai Chi, I have heard remarkable stories from students regarding benefits for health. Health concerns can be a driving force for starting Tai Chi. Indeed many of those teaching Tai Chi today began practice as the result of a diagnosis with a life threatening condition, in a desperate last ditch effort to avoid death. And it worked, with sometimes miraculous and dramatic effects.
Several of the case stories in this book are from those teachers, and their stories are powerful and moving. Tai Chi has been studied by researchers for almost every health condition out there – from heart, lung and kidney disease, to cancer, stroke, diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, immunity and more.
Much of that research is presented in this book, along with over 50 case stories from those who have directly experienced the benefits of Tai Chi. But what was missing in the research was why these exercises were having such benefits. Chapter Two – Qi: Science or Magic? details views from a Traditional Chinese Medicine and cultural perspective. However little has been done to understand how and why exercises such as Tai Chi were having benefits from a physiological perspective.
Following the change in condition of three of my students with cancer (one quite dramatic), I realized that there must be a physiological and measureable response which would explain these results. My research revealed a link between hypoxia (reduction of oxygen reaching various tissues or areas of the body) and enhanced blood oxygen saturation, diffusion and metabolic function. A mechanism of health distinctly different from that of aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
So if Tai Chi and related exercises are not aerobic exercises, then what are they? Since measurements suggest a positive effect on oxygen based metabolism, I coined the word Metarobics...
I then realized this meant that a third and new school of fitness needed to be developed. One which could explain why and how exercises which are neither aerobic nor strength based were having such dramatic benefits for health. Indeed, it has been noted that Tai Chi has no aerobic specific effects, in an extensive review of Tai Chi studies.1 Yet Tai Chi has been found to have benefits for a wide range of chronic conditions. So if Tai Chi and related exercises are not aerobic exercises, then what are they? Since measurements suggest a positive effect on oxygen based metabolism, I coined the word Metarobics.
Metarobic exercise is a good fit with Aerobic and Anaerobic categories of exercise. As detailed in the first chapter of this book, aerobic exercise results in either no change to a drop in blood oxygen saturation and diffusion, depending on intensity. Exercises such as Tai Chi enhance blood oxygen saturation and diffusion. As a new theory, Metarobics explains how and why exercises such as Tai Chi can benefit such a wide range of chronic conditions. It turns out that relaxing the body in conjunction with slow abdominal breathing is not just good for your health, but fantastic!
Tai Chi Therapy: The Science of Metarobics, is a unique book from many perspectives. Aside from documenting and presenting theories and research for a new category of exercise, I have included life changing testimonials and stories.
These stories are many and dramatic, so much so that I have created a section on Metarobics.com to post the growing number of accounts. Some are accounts which were personally related to me, others are from various books and websites (listed in the references). Chapters one and two present research supporting that exercises such as Tai Chi enhance blood oxygen saturation, diffusion and oxygen based metabolism, as an effect unique from other forms of exercise.
Chapter three continues with research specific to cancer, which is what prompted many of my original observations. Chapters four, five and six document research and theoretical effects for a wide range of other conditions, including heart and lung disease, stroke, kidney disease, asthma, diabetes, immunity and chronic pain.
Although the stories and research presented in this book affirms the live giving benefits people have derived from forms of Tai Chi and related exercises, it should be noted that there are many styles and methods of teaching. Before choosing a school or teacher, you are encouraged to read Chapter Seven: Essential Elements of Metarobics and Tai Chi for Therapy. It is also important to discuss any changes in health routines with your doctor.
The conclusion summarizes the current state of Metarobics as a new field of exercise, as well as psychological benefits of Tai Chi as a form of moving meditation and mindfulness based practice (including uses for smoking cessation and other addictive behaviors). Research related to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is also presented, as well as implications related to exercises which do not necessarily fit the typical category of aerobic or anaerobic forms of exercise, such as walking and yoga. Over time Metarobics may come to include a wide variety of exercises.
Many people already practice some form of these exercises in various parts of the world, including the United States. It is my hope that this book will help an even greater number of people understand and benefit from these exercises. People ran, swam and bicycled before Dr. Ken Cooper came out with his book Aerobics2 in 1968, but it took his work to document the unique physiological effects of these exercises, leading to the diversity and growth of aerobic exercises that we have today. Metarobics does the same thing for Tai Chi and forms of Qi Gong, and may come to embrace a wide variety of exercises which do not quite fit conventional categories. Enjoy the book, and with a greater understanding of Metarobics, I encourage you to research your local opportunities, and check out the resources available on Metarobics.com.
For more information, visit: metarobics.com
The book is available for purchase on Amazon.com