The increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes and obesity is a major health concern in the U.S. with more than 65 percent of American adults being obese and about 21 million diabetic. Healthcare professionals recommend mild forms of exercise to reduce the risk of vascular (blood vessel) complications of diabetes, but strenuous exercise may have detrimental effects for the very obese, so it’s important to find a form of gentle to mild aerobic exercise that will be easy on the heart and lungs.
For many obese diabetics, the thought of coming up with a form of exercise that isn’t too strenuous may seem daunting. However, recent research has found incredible physical benefits from the ancient Chinese self-defense ritual, tai chi. Sometimes referred to as “meditation in motion,” tai chi has become known for increasing internal serenity through gentle movements that connect the mind and body. Tai chi is touted for reducing stress and improving a variety of health conditions. A new study examines the health benefits of tai chi on obese diabetic patients and finds improved blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
A small group of 155 patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity were broken up into two groups, one tai chi group and another group that performed conventional exercise. Researchers recorded tests for blood cholesterol and blood sugar at the beginning of the study and again at the end of three months. After three months, the patients in the tai chi group experienced reduced body mass index and blood cholesterol levels. Additionally, blood triglycerides dropped by a whopping 28.3 in the tai chi exercise group but only by 17.4 in the conventional exercise group. High-density fats and index of oxidative stress were also reduced in the tai chi exercise group.
So while this study was small, the results were very encouraging. In addition to improved health, patients may also experience the meditative benefits of tai chi, such as emotional well-being and mental clarity plus less anxiety. Researchers encourage obese diabetic patients to consult their physician to come up with a safe tai chi exercise regime that will maximize individual results.