Practicing the meditative, rhythmic flow of tai chi works just as well as aerobic exercise and strength training for achieving some health benefits such as reducing waist size and improving cholesterol, new findings suggest.
Results of a randomized controlled trial published online May 31 in the Annals of Internal Medicine show that people who have a tough time with some kinds of aerobic exercise may gain similar benefits from tai chi.
The study is “very impressive,” says Bavani Nadeswaran, MD, of the University of California Irvine’s Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, who was not involved in the study.
Many people have arthritis or back pain, “and aerobic exercise can be hard on them,” she says. “The good thing about exercises like tai chi and yoga is that they are low-impact.” That means that people who can’t run or get access to a pool for swimming have a viable alternative.
The study included nearly 550 adults ages 50 and up in Hong Kong who were randomly assigned to engage in tai chi, aerobic exercise with strength training, or no exercise program for 12 weeks. All had waistlines greater than 35.4 inches for men and 31.5 inches for women.