Tai Chi, a Mind-Body Exercise

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“When you start to exercise, the type of exercise needs to be something that’s within your abilities, and something that you enjoy in a safe place” — Paul Ebeling

Tai chi is considered a suitable activity for older people, including those who are not active, there previously has been little evidence of its health benefits, said Parco Siu, the head of the division of kinesiology at the University of Hong Kong School of Public Health.

Our statistical analysis did not suggest tai chi is more effective than conventional exercise, but showed that tai chi mirrors the beneficial effects of conventional exercise by reducing waist circumference in middle-aged and older adults with central obesity,” Professor Siu said. “Our data suggest that tai chi can be an effective alternative to conventional exercise in the management of central obesity.

In his study, the 543 participants each had “central obesity,” which happens in those with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Professor Siu’s team randomly assigned study participants to 3 groups. The program used what is called the Yang style of tai chi. Conventional exercisers did brisk walking and strength training. The 2 exercise groups did their assigned exercises in instructor-led workouts 3X a wk for 1 hr. The 3rd group did not exercise.

The 2 exercise groups saw favorable impact on their HDL cholesterol. They did not have detectable differences in fasting glucose or blood pressure.

“Tai chi can be an effective alternative to conventional exercise in the management of central obesity. This is good news for middle-aged and older adults who have central obesity but may be averse to conventional exercise due to preference or limited mobility,” Siu said.

A mind-body exercise that involves slow movements and breathing, tai chi has been described as “meditation in motion.” It is practiced in many Asian countries and is becoming more popular in Western countries where about 2-M people practice it, the study authors noted.

Tai chi is quite accessible at community centers and sports/fitness clubs,” Professor Siu said. “Tai chi has various other health benefits including fall prevention, osteoarthritis management, cardiorespiratory and musculoskeletal fitness, cardiometabolic health, and psychological health.”

The findings were published on 31 May in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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