In a new study, researchers conclude that tai chi is as effective as regular physical exercise in reducing people’s waist circumference. This study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, provides evidence of the usefulness of including tai chi in a physical activity program aimed at slimming.
Waist circumference: how to know if you are in the red
People with obesity are at greater risk of developing serious conditions, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Doctors determine the presence of obesity by measuring body mass index (BMI). This is the relationship between its height and its weight. However, researchers suggest that the location of fat deposits in the body, particularly in a person’s abdomen, known as central obesity, is also a risk factor for disease.
Also, a person who is not obese may still have large enough fat deposits in their abdomen to be a risk factor. An effective way to determine the amount of fatty deposits in a person’s abdomen is to measure their waist circumference.
Reducing waist circumference is a therapeutic goal of paramount importance to reduce health risks in both men and women.
The rise of tai chi around the world
Tai chi is a body-mind practice originating in China, particularly popular in Asia. Tai chi combines breathing and meditation. It is becoming more and more popular in the rest of the world. Tai chi involves “certain postures and gentle movements with mental focus, breathing, and relaxation. It can be helpful in improving balance and stability and reducing back and knee pain. Because tai chi is a low-impact form of physical activity, it may be useful for people who find it difficult to do more vigorous exercises.
More than 500 attendees
Between February 27, 2016 and March 17, 2018, researchers recruited people over the age of 50 with central obesity. A total of 543 people agreed to take part in the study. The researchers then randomly assigned these participants to one of three groups of equal number.
– The first group took a 12-week, instructor-led tai chi course and met for one hour three times a week.
– The second group took a moderate, instructor-led exercise class, meeting three times a week for one hour over 12 weeks. The class included brisk walking and muscle strengthening.
– The researchers did not give any physical activity to the third group, which therefore served as a control group.
The scientists measured in the participants:
– the waist circumference
– body weight
– high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels
– the level of triglycerides
– plasma glucose level
– blood pressure.
They took these measurements on three occasions: once before the intervention, once at the end of the intervention and once 6 months after the end of the intervention.
The researchers found that the waist circumference of participants in the tai chi and conventional exercise groups decreased compared to participants in the control group, with neither showing a statistically significant difference. The tai chi and conventional exercise groups also saw a slower decrease in HDL cholesterol levels, which is a positive sign regarding a person’s metabolic health. Body mass was also slightly reduced for the tai chi and conventional exercise groups.
Gentle exercise for weight loss
This study shows that 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 suffer from central obesity but who may be reluctant to conventional exercise due to preference or limited mobility.
The bottom line is that people may have an option, like tai chi, to manage central obesity and metabolic syndrome if they don’t prefer conventional exercise.
The researchers hope their results will provide evidence for including tai chi in comprehensive physical activity guidelines for middle-aged and older adults with central obesity.
Effects of Tai Chi or Conventional Exercise on Central Obesity in Middle-Aged and Older Adults
Abdominal obesity and metabolic syndrome: exercise as medicine?