IRVINE ( — It’s 4 p.m. on UC Irvine’s campus and a group of students, adults and senior citizens is gathered for a lesson in stress reduction.

The topic? Tai chi.

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Yes, the ancient exercise routine and martial art is considered by some doctors to be an effective weapon in combating stress. Some call it “meditation in motion.”

Shin Lin, a professor of biochemistry at UC Irvine, says he has found tai chi to have positive effects on participants’ stress levels and immune systems. He measures brain waves, heart rate, blood flow and temperature while subjects do tai chi.

“Our research shows when you move in this repetitive way, you actually generate more neurons in the part of the brain called the hippocampus,” Lin said. “Some of those neurons suppress the stress response.”

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Lin said he found in a study of senior citizens that participants who did tai chi for six weeks built up antibodies to shingles equivalent to study participants who did not practice tai chi, but instead got vaccinated.

Alex Mendoza, 44, a career police officer, said he’s found some stress relief since he started doing tai chi six months ago.

He said he used to be “commanding,” whereas now, he says, “I get it.”

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