Metabolic syndrome, also known as Syndrome X, is a group of symptoms including obesity (especially around the waist), high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and high blood sugar. The condition is linked to heart disease and diabetes. Now research reports that tai chi and qigong practice may promote weight loss and improve metabolic syndrome. Tai chi and qi gong are traditional Chinese martial and healing arts shown to reduce stress as well as improve strength, flexibility and balance.
The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, examined the effect of tai chi and qi gong on adults with metabolic syndrome. Researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia administered a tai chi and qigong program to 11 adults with metabolic syndrome for 12 weeks. Blood samples, blood pressure, body measurements and mental health assessments were obtained from the participants.
The subjects participated in 1 to 1.5 hours of tai chi and qigong sessions three times a week. They also had a regular home yoga practice. Tai chi combines slow, meditative movement with controlled breathing to improve balance, flexibility and strength. Qigong combines meditation, controlled breathing and movement exercises for health and enlightenment.
The researchers found that the participants had improved weight, blood pressure, and insulin levels. The participants lost an average 3 kg in weight and 3 cm in waist size. Furthermore, their blood pressure, insulin levels, mental health and vitality significantly improved. Three of the participants were no longer diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.
The Main Point
“The programme was feasible and acceptable and participants showed improvements in metabolic and psychological variables” the study authors write. “A larger controlled trial is now needed to confirm these promising preliminary results.”
This study is significant because it suggests that tai chi and qigong practice can promote weight loss and improve metabolic syndrome in overweight adults. It also shows that tai chi and qigong can improve quality of life and mental health.
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Liu X et al. A Preliminary Study of the Effects of Tai Chi and Qigong Medical Exercise on Indicators of Metabolic Syndrome, Glycaemic Control, Health-Related Quality of Life, and Psychological Health in Adults with Elevated Blood Glucose. Br J Sports Med. 2010 Aug;44(10):704-9. Epub 2008 Oct 16.