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Tai Chi Can Help Control Waist Size

Practicing tai chi can help reduce the waistline, control body weight and raise good HDL cholesterol. It also helps improve balance and sleep.
Tai Chi Can Help Control Waist Size
Asian Couple practicing Tai Chi in the park together. Healthy, workout and relaxation concepts. Smiling Chinese or Thai or Japanese people.

Expanding waistlines are not attractive, but they’re not just a cosmetic problem. Big bellies, also known as “central obesity” or “abdominal adiposity,” are often linked with high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and unhealthy lipid levels in a cluster referred to as metabolic syndrome. This is associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular complications. But perhaps tai chi can help mitigate the danger.

How Tai Chi Can Help Whittle a Big Waist:

Measuring waist circumference is not too hard. Anyone who has ever bought a belt knows how to do that. Reducing it, on the other hand, can be a challenge.

A new study compared people doing aerobic exercise training with those doing tai chi classes and and a control group with no formal exercise (Annals of Internal Medicine, June 1, 2021). The investigators set up three groups with 181 participants over 50 years old in each. They all had big waistlines at the start of the trial.

The exercise interventions lasted three months. During that time, the control group lost less than a centimeter in waist circumference. Both of the active groups lost considerably more fat from their middles. In addition, they lost weight and improved their levels of high-density cholesterol. People in both exercise groups maintained their new weights and waists for the remaining six months of the study. Only those who had practiced tai chi, however, kept their HDL cholesterol up during that time.

Other Benefits of Practicing the Martial Art:

The investigators conclude that tai chi can help as much as standard exercise in controlling waist circumference. It may even be preferable for some older people, as the slower pace of movement may be easier for them to sustain. It is especially popular in Asian countries because of its cultural resonance as a traditional martial art.

Previous researchers have identified a range of ways in which tai chi can help achieve a healthy lifestyle. People who practice this martial art have less insomnia. The practice may also ease joint pain due to arthritis and reduce the chance of a bad fall.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Siu PM et al, "Effects of Tai Chi or conventional exercise on central obesity in middle-aged and older adults: A three-group randomized controlled trial." Annals of Internal Medicine, June 1, 2021. DOI: 10.7326/M20-7014
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