Bagua Zhang Health Study

(Extract from study conducted by Beijing University of Physical Education)

 

MEDICAL AND PHYSIOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE OLD MEN WHO PRACTICE BAGUA ZHANG

 

Gao Qiang (Department of Sports Physiology)

Kang Ge Wu (Department of Wushu)

Xian Hanzhao (Department of Sports Medicine)

Chen Minyi (Department of Sports Anatomy)

 Beijing University of Physical Education

 Wushu is a valuable cultural heritage of China as well as one of the sports events which people enjoy.  Some of the boxing styles have especially attracted attention extensively, both at home and abroad for their health benefits.  Many studies have been published on the effects of Wushu or Tai Chi on body functions, e.g. by the Department of Sports Physiology, Beijing University of Physical Education (1956, 1978), the Institute of Sports Medicine, Beijing Medical College (1959), Shanghai Research of Sports Science (1979) and Xu Shengwen (1964), Fanzhenhua (1964), Qu Zhiping(1965), Liang Yonghan (1981) etc.  However, more research should be carried out in this field of Wushu which has such a long history, rich content and wide popularity.

Bagua Zhang was developed by Tong Hai Chuan in the Qing Dynasty and was a special style like Tai Chi in Wushu.  Through its development of more than a hundred years, it has proved to be not only a useful attacking and defending skill, but also a good exercise in keeping fit and prolonging life.   Since no study had been made to explore its value for health, it is intended in this paper to examine the medical and physiological functions of Bagua Zhang for fitness and longevity.

Two groups of subjects were observed:

(1)           30 subjects in Baguazhang Group (B.G.) were all members of Beijing Baguazhang Research Club, and all practiced Baguazhang regularly.  All had practiced for at least eight years and were aged 60 or more years old.

Former occupations:  Workers 23, peasant 1, government officer and doctors 5, unknown 1.

(2)           30 subjects in Control Group  (C.G.) were all retired veteran workers of a wool factory, all in good health (took care of their own life). Most of them went walking and other light activities, a few of them practiced Tai Chi, long distance running or cycling.

The former occupations of this group were similar to the B.G.

Workers 25, government officer 5.  The average ages and heights of the two groups were:

Age          69.43 years (B.G.)  69.67 years (C.G.)

Height      165.71cm    (B.G.)  164.54cm   (C.G.), which were very similar to each other. 

Average body weight and chest circumference of the B.G. exceeded the C.G. significantly.

(66.54kg and 93.67cm to 56.77kg and 86.78cm pÐ0.01).

Under the same conditions, many medical and physiological measurements were taken from the subjects of both groups:  X-rays of chest, lower back and hip, the shoulder and vertebral column moving ranges, respiratory functions, cardiovascular functions, muscle working capacity, vision, audition, balance and circumferences of limbs, etc.  The data obtained was divided into three groups:  ages 60-69, over 70 years old and total group.

The statistical datum was obtained and is as follows:

The numbers of anterio edge of lumber vertebrae with osteoprolifrosis (osteophyma), the osteoporosis (density level oftrabeculae and abnormal vertebrae), the change of the weight bearing line at the right acetabula, the densities of thetrabeculae at femur up-end, the thickness of compact bone, the transversed diameter of femur, etc. were compared between the B.G and the C.G. Remarkable differences were found by comparison.  (pÐ0.05 or 0.01).  It was shown that the senile degeneration in bone could be prevented or postponed by those people who persisted in practicing BaguaZhang and that a good bone adaptation occurred as a result of Ba Gua Zhang practice.

Observations on the vertebral column and hip joint moving ranges, showed that because of frequent and wide movements of lower back and hip in practicing Bagua Zhang, the performances of forward and lateral trunk flexion and lower back twist of the old men in B.G. was much better than those in the C.G. (pÐ0.01).

The respiratory functions of the B.G. exceeded the C.G. significantly.  The differences between the two groups in vital capacity and maximal pulmonary ventilation and chest circumference, difference between inhalation and exhalation were also significant. (pÐ0.05 or 0.01).  The supposed reason for this is linked to the deep abdominal breathing while practicing Bagua Zhang.

No significant differences were found in heart rate, systolic pressure (n.s.).  Diastolic pressure of the B.G. was lower than that of the C.G. (pÐ0.05), to show as a good response that resistances in peripheral micro circulations were lower, paulspressure of the B.G. were higher (pÐ0.05).  In ECG detections, abnormal ECG in the B.G. occupied 41.38%, and in the C.G. 65.52% (pÐ0.05), which showed that practicing Bagua Zhang has good effects on the cardiovascular functions.

Decrease of muscle working capacity is one of the important indexes of senility.  The hand grip, forearm (external) twisting force, 12 minute walking, reaction time and electromechanical delay of the B.G. were all much better than those of the C.G. (pÐ0.01), reflecting the active effects of persistent Bagua Zhang on muscle force, endurance and reaction speed.

The difference in vision was slight (n.s.), whereas the two-ear audition, one-ear audition and balance ability (eyes closed) of the B.G. were all much better than those of the C.G. (pÐ0.01).

Comparisons of the circumferences of upper arm, thigh and calf between the two groups showed a significant difference in favour of the B.G.  Although these differences were affected by nutrition, body size and other factors, practicing BaguaZhang was one of the important factors to strengthen muscles.

In summary, compared with the C.G. no significant senile degeneration in bones, joints, muscle working capacity, respiratory function, cardiovascular system function and vision, audition and balance ability were found in the old men engaged in Bagua Zhang exercises, but rather occurrences of good adaptations in the B.G were observed.

The results of this study provided some medical and physiological basis for the value of Bagua Zhang  to health and longevity.