Tai Chi can help diabetics

Tai Chi can help diabetics

Tai chi is an ancient martial art that combines deep breathing and relaxation with slow, gentle circular movements. Adults diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, who took part in a tai chi programme two days a week, with three days of home practice for six months, cut down their fasting blood glucose levels, enhanced quality of life, including mental health, vitality and energy.

"Tai chi really has similar effects as other aerobic exercises on diabetic control. Tai chi is a low-impact exercise, less stressful on the bones, joints and muscles than more strenuous exercise," said Beverly Roberts, professor at the University of Florida (UF) College of Nursing.

Roberts studied tai chi's effect on older Korean residents with Rhayun Song of Chungham National University. Sixty-two participants, mostly Korean women, took part in the study. Half the group participated in at least 80 percent of two supervised sessions one hour per week, with three days of home practice for six months, and the other half served as a control group.

About 23.6 million children and adults in the US or 7.8 percent of the population have diabetes. It occurs when the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.

Risk factors include obesity, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, high blood pressure and cholesterol, a history of gestational diabetes and increased age, many of which can be reduced through exercise. "People assume that for exercise to be beneficial you have to be huffing and puffing, sweating and red-faced afterward," Roberts said.

"This may turn people off, particularly older adults. However, we have found that activities like tai chi can be just as beneficial in improving health." Those who completed the sessions had significantly improved glucose control and reported higher levels of vitality and energy. The research was featured in the June issue of The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.