Tai chi mirrors the beneficial effects of traditional exercise, a new study has found.
Tai chi, also known as tai chi chuan, was originally developed as a martial art in 13th-century China and is often described as "meditation in motion," with the mind-body practice combining deep breathing and relaxation with gentle, flowing movements.
Researchers from the University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong; Chinese Academy of Sciences; and University of California, Los Angeles conducted a study to see how effective tai chi was for weight loss in comparison to normal exercise in middle-aged and older adults with central obesity, an excess accumulation of fat in the abdominal area.
The team recruited more than 500 adults aged over 50 and randomly assigned them a regimen of no exercise, conventional exercise consisting of aerobic exercise and strength training, or tai chi.
Those in the exercise groups met for instructor-led workouts for one hour three times a week for 12 weeks, and their waist circumference and other indicators of metabolic health were measured at the start, at 12 weeks, and then at 38 weeks.
The findings showed that the participants in both the tai chi and conventional exercise groups had reductions in waist circumference in comparison to the control group, leading the researchers to conclude that tai chi mirrors the health benefits of traditional exercise.
They also noted that the reduction in waist circumference had a favourable impact on good cholesterol, but didn't make a detectable difference on glucose or blood pressure.
"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," the study authors wrote.
The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.