Tai Chi Mirrors the Benefits of Conventional Exercise in Adults with Central Obesity

The gentle meditative exercise of tai chi may be as beneficial as other more vigorous forms of activity when measuring central obesity. This study found that tai chi reduced waist circumference in middle-aged and older adults with abdominal obesity in a study done by investigators at the University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong; Chinese Academy of Sciences; and UCLA.

As is well known, central obesity is a major manifestation of metabolic syndrome, including central obesity, dyslipidemia, hyperglycemia, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) level, and high blood pressure, which increases the risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

In this study, 543 participants were randomly assigned in a 1:1:1 ratio to a control group with no exercise intervention (n= 181), conventional exercise consisting of aerobic exercise and strength training (EX group) (n= 181), and a tai chi group (TC group) (n= 181). The interventions lasted 12 weeks.

The outcomes included:

  1. Decrease in waist circumference from baseline to week 12 in the control group was 0.8 cm (95% CI, −4.1 to 5.7 cm).
  2. Both intervention groups showed reductions in WC relative to control (adjusted mean differences: TC group vs. control, −1.8 cm [CI, −2.3 to −1.4 cm]; P < 0.001; EX group vs. control: −1.3 cm [CI, −1.8 to −0.9 cm]; P < 0.001).
  3. Both intervention groups also showed reductions in body weight (P < 0.05) and attenuation of the decrease in HDL-C level relative to the control group.
  4. The favorable changes in WC and body weight were maintained in both the TC and EX groups, whereas the beneficial effect on HDL-C was only maintained in the TC group at week 38.

CONCLUSION/ The findings suggest that tai chi is an effective approach for management of central obesity. This study has great translational significance because the findings support the notion of incorporating tai chi into global physical activity guidelines for middle-aged and older adults with central obesity.