A new study shows that tai chi mirrors the beneficial effects of conventional exercise by reducing waist circumference in middle-aged and older adults with central obesity. The study was done by investigators at the University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong; Chinese Academy of Sciences; and UCLA.
Central obesity is a major manifestation of metabolic syndrome, broadly defined as a cluster of cardiometabolic risk factors, including central obesity, dyslipidemia, hyperglycemia, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) level, and high blood pressure, that all increase risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
543 participants were randomly assigned in a 1:1:1 ratio to a control group with no exercise intervention (n= 181), conventional exercise consisting of aerobic exercise and strength training (EX group) (n= 181), and a tai chi group (TC group) (n= 181). Interventions lasted 12 weeks.
The primary outcome was waist circumference. Secondary outcomes were body weight; body mass index; high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), triglyceride, and fasting plasma glucose levels.
And because tai chi is a gentle mind-body exercise, it could be a good alternative for middle-aged and older adults who may be averse to conventional exercise.
Tai chi is also well suited for older adults, especially those who have not been previously active, because it involves smooth and gentle body movements, but this is the first time its health benefits have been measured in a scientific study.
Tai chi is also easy to learn. You can even try online classes to see if it’s a good fit for you.
The findings suggest that tai chi is an effective approach for management of central obesity. This study has great translational significance because our findings support the notion of incorporating tai chi into global physical activity guidelines for middle-aged and older adults with central obesity.
“Our study of older adults found that both tai chi and conventional exercise improved central obesity by reducing waist circumference and body weight to a greater degree than those in our study who did not exercise regularly,” said Dr. Parco M. Siu of the University of Hong Kong. “In our study, tai chi and conventional exercise provide about equal benefit in terms of reduced waist circumference and improvement in some metabolic issues for middle-aged adults with central obesity,” Siu said.