A slow-movement form of exercise known as tai chi can strengthen the immune system in the elderly and boost the potency of a vaccine against the virus that causes shingles, researchers said.
When tai chi, which involves a series of movements, was combined with a vaccine against shingles the immunity in the patients reached levels seen in younger people.
They found that tai chi, a westernized version of the 2,000-year-old Chinese martial art, improved the immune system in the elderly against the painful, blistery rash that is caused by the same virus as chickenpox.
"Since older adults often show blunted protective responses to vaccines, this study suggests that tai chi is an approach that might complement and augment the efficacy of other vaccines, such as influenza,"he added in a statement.
"These are exciting findings, because the positive results of this study also have implications for other infectious diseases like influenza and pneumonia,"said Professor Michael Irwin, lead author of the study from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).