NEW YORK — As people age, a grueling workout in the gym is not something everyone can keep doing. Luckily, a new study finds practicing the martial art techniques of tai chi can be just as helpful for a person’s waistline. Researchers with the University of Hong Kong say tai chi can provide equal benefits to traditional exercise when it comes to reducing belly fat in older adults.
Their study examined 500 adults over the age of 50 with central obesity for three months. Central obesity, simply put, means carrying excess weight around the midsection. It’s one of the main characteristics of metabolic syndrome, which can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes.
Study authors randomly assigned the participants to engage in tai chi, regular exercise, or no exercise during the project. The tai chi group met with instructors for one hour three times a weekly over the 12-week experiment. Specifically, participants practiced the Yang style of tai chi, while those doing regular exercises focused on brisk walking and strength training workouts.
Researchers measured each person’s waistline at the start, at the end of 12 weeks, and again after 38 weeks. In comparison to the control (no exercise) group, both the tai chi and exercising groups displayed drops in belly fat. They also had more favorable levels of HDL “good” cholesterol.
What exactly is tai chi?
Study authors describe this practice as “meditation in motion.” Asian communities have been practicing this form of the martial arts for centuries and it is now becoming increasingly popular in Western culture. Approximately two million people in the United States now practice tai chi.
Along with these new findings on weight loss benefits, previous studies find tai chi can also lower the symptoms of depression and even reduce hyperactivity in children with ADHD.
Study author conclude that their results show these motions can be especially helpful for adults dealing with limited mobility.
The findings appear in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.