June 2, 2021 — Practicing the meditative, rhythmic flow of tai chi works just as well aerobic exercise and strength training To get some health benefits such as reduced waist size and improved cholesterol, new findings suggest.
Results of a randomized controlled trial published online in May 31 history of internal medicine Show that people who have a hard time with certain types of aerobic exercise can get similar benefits from tai chi.
The study is “very impressive,” says Bavani Nadeshwaran, MD, of the University of California Irvine’s Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, who was not involved in the study.
many people have Arthritis or back pain“And aerobic exercise can be hard on them,” she says. “The good thing about exercises like tai chi and . yoga It’s that they’re low-impact.” That means people who can’t run or have access to a pool swimming is a viable option.
The study involved nearly 550 adults aged 50 and older in Hong Kong who were randomly assigned to engage in tai chi, an aerobic exercise strength training, or not exercise routine for 12 weeks. All had waists greater than 35.4 inches for men and 31.5 inches for women.
The Tai Chi program consisted of three 1-hour weekly sessions of practice led by an instructor. Participants in the aerobic exercise group participated in a brisk exercise program three times each week. tai chio and strength training, also led by a trainer.
Researchers measured changes in waist size, cholesterol level, and weight by about 9 months. There was little change in the average waistline of those who didn’t exercise. Compared with the group that didn’t exercise, people in the two exercise groups had a greater drop in average waists: 0.7 inches more with tai chi, and 0.5 inches more with brisk walking and strength training.
There was even greater decline in both exercise groups. body weight and triglyceride (a type of fat found in the blood) levels, and large increases in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol, compared to the no-exercise group. All these improvements lasted about 9 months with Tai Chi. but improve cholesterol level Those in the brisk walking program didn’t last as long.
The findings don’t necessarily mean that people with larger waists should cut away from their current exercise programs and turn to tai chi, says study author Parko Siu, PhD, head of the department of kinesiology at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health. Huh. They show that tai chi is a good option if a person likes it.
“This is great news for middle-aged and older adults, who may be against traditional exercise,” he said in an email. But “certainly it’s not a problem for people to regularly participate in traditional exercise.”
Tai chi may also be a good option for people with larger waistlines, says Siu, because practicing this form of exercise is one way to follow the World Health Organization’s advice on physical activity, although the study did not address this question. did.
Siu and other researchers note several limitations of the study, including that all the people were in China, so how this practice would affect people from different regions is unclear. Plus, about a third of those who started the study dropped out before it ended, and had a higher body weight than those who stayed until the end. The authors say this high dropout rate could mean that some people had negative experiences during their exercise programs.
Next steps, says Siu, include assessing how tai chi affects things like blood sugar and blood pressure. Other, early-stage studies also show some positive effects of tai chi on mood and cognition, he says, pointing to the need for more research.
Nadeshwaran of UC Irvine agrees. The work opens the door, she says, to a long-term look at how practicing tai chi may affect a person’s risk of dying from heart disease or any other cause. His team’s work includes evaluating the effects of tai chi on a number of conditions, including: metabolic syndrome And even after COVID-19.
While researchers pursue these questions, tai chi is accessible in many ways. CU notes the availability of classes in it”note In motion” exercises in community centers and fitness clubs. For those who can’t yet engage in activities in the real world, Nadeshwaran says virtual tai chi classes are also available.