Middle-aged and older adults often find that their once defined waistline has gone missing and when diet and exercise don’t work to reduce a thickening midsection, new research has found that a more gentle approach may have significant benefits. Many adults over 50 are not able to perform the strenuous exercises that are designed to target abdominal muscles, but a recent study found that Tai Chi may be as effective for trimming the waist and belly of older adults as group workouts at a traditional gym.
According to a recent Everyday Health report, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine of 380 people over the age of 50 in Hong Kong found that compared with a conventional exercise program, participants in a 12-week Tai Chi program dropped centimeters off their waists and sustained the loss more than six months later.
The research is encouraging for people who cannot tolerate traditional exercise programs but could participate in Tai Chi because it is a low-impact, gentle form of movement. The study participants were men and women over the age of 50 who had central obesity – a high distribution of fat around the midsection and abdomen. Most of the participants were overweight or obese and did not have a regular exercise routine, but there were otherwise free from physical disabilities or diseases that impaired mobility.
Central obesity, even among people with a healthy body weight or body mass index, carries a higher risk for health problems. Post-menopausal women who have central obesity, in particular, have higher mortality rates from heart disease, cancer, and other health issues, even if their weight is considered normal.
Study participants who were in the Tai Chi group followed the Yang method of practice – a series of slow, continuous movements designed to improve balance, strength, and flexibility. The Tai Chi group met three times per week for 12 weeks to participate in an hour-long instructor-led class. The conventional group exercise classes included brisk walking and strengthening exercises such as arm curls, arm raises, shoulder presses, squats, and heel raises.
After 12 weeks, the Tai Chi group reduced their waist circumference by an average of 1.8 centimeters compared with the conventional exercise group that dropped an average of 1.3 centimeters. After six months, the Tai Chi group had dropped 4.3 more from their midsection and the regular exercise group an average of 3.6 centimeters more.
Whether you are trying to slim your waistline, build strength, flexibility, and balance or simply mix up your regular exercise routine, Tai Chi may be a practice worth investigating. Tai Chi requires little in the way of equipment and participants can join at any age or fitness level. Exercise of any form can help boost mood and encourage other healthy lifestyle choices that support well-being and mobility.