Effect of Tai Chi on Obese Diabetic Patients

This study was conducted to analyze the effects of simplified tai chi chuan, or simply tai chi,  on obese patients with type 2 diabetes. In this study, 155 hospitalized patients with diabetes and obesity were selected and divided into two groups. One group was instructed in tai chi while the other was instructed to perform conventional exercises. The study continued for three months and the subjects exercised three times a week. At the end of the study, it was observed that blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels improved more in those practicing tai chi.

The complications of diabetes escalate when concurrent with obesity. These complications have been confronted with non-pharmaceutical treatments, such as exercises. However, strenuous exercise could have its repercussion on the heart and eventually result in further detrimental effects. Moderate exercise and aerobics have positive effects on the heart, lungs and blood of patients with diabetes. Most Chinese martial arts including tai chi have been acknowledged in the management of blood glucose levels. However, the effects of these exercises including tai chi are yet to be ascertained in patients with diabetes who are also obese. Thus, this study incorporated a simple form of tai chi on obese diabetics.

* Of 155 patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity, 62 patients were assigned to the tai chi exercise group and 55 patients formed a group involved with conventional exercise.
* Each group was trained by experts for 12 weeks prior to initiation of the study  and was educated on a diabetic lifestyle.
* Baseline tests for blood cholesterol, blood sugar and a few other parameters were conducted at the beginning of the study and repeated at the end of three months, post exercise.

* After 12 weeks, the body mass index reduced from 33.5 pre-exercise to 31.3 and the blood cholesterol from 194 to 189 mg/dL. A few other relevant parameters showed significant changes post-tai chi exercise.
* The blood triglycerides had dropped by 28.3 in the tai chi exercise group but there was a mere 17.4 mg/dL drop in those involved with the conventional exercise.
* The high-density lipids and index of oxidative stress were also reduced in the tai chi exercise group.

Shortcomings/next steps
There was no control group in this study, making it difficult to assess the accuracy of the comparisons. Diet was not controlled prior to the initiation of exercises and a few tests could have been influenced by diet. The authors suggest longer follow-up times in future trials for better results. These exercises could also be used to train other high-risk patients, such as prediabetics with associated cardiovascular disease.

Tai chi exercises were proved to be beneficial on patients with diabetes and obesity, and were safe when supervised by professional trainers. Intricate monitoring of blood sugar, lipid profiles, blood pressure and general fitness showed that the t’ai chi exercises could in fact lower these parameters after three months. Patients with diabetes and obesity usually have high blood levels of oxidative stress proteins and oxidative stress could initiate vascular complications. These were also reduced after the t’ai chi exercise regime. Thus, “tai chi can be an alternative exercise intervention for increasing glucose control, diabetic self-care activities, and quality of life.” These simple tai chi exercises could be enforced as regular daily exercises for patients with diabetes and obesity.

For More Information:
Effect of T’ai Chi Exercise on Biochemical Profiles and Oxidative Stress Indicators in Obese Patients with Type 2 Diabetes
Publication Journal: The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, November 2010
By Shih-Chueh Chen, MD, PhD; Kwo-Chang Ueng, MD, PhD; ChungS han Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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