Improve Glucose Control in Type 2 Diabetes with Tai Chi Practice

Improve Glucose Control in Type 2 Diabetes with Tai Chi Practice


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Gentle exercise has been shown by studies to prevent diabetes in 60 percent of cases. Therefore, since tai chi is a gentle exercise, we can assume that it’s effective in preventing and improving the control of diabetes.” – Paul Lam


Diabetes is a major health issue. It is estimated that 30 million people in the United States have diabetes and the numbers are growing. Type 2 Diabetes results from a resistance of tissues, especially fat tissues, to the ability of insulin to promote the uptake of glucose from the blood. As a result, blood sugar levels rise producing hyperglycemia. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. In addition, diabetes is heavily associated with other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and circulatory problems leading to amputations. As a result, diabetes doubles the risk of death of any cause compared to individuals of the same age without diabetes.


Type 2 diabetes is a common and increasingly prevalent illness that is largely preventable. One of the reasons for the increasing incidence of Type 2 Diabetes is its association with overweight and obesity which is becoming epidemic in the industrialized world. Qigong and Tai Chi have been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevityQigong and Tai Chi trainings are designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through controlled breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Diet and exercise are prescribed to treat Type 2 Diabetes.


Qigong and Tai Chi are gentle exercises that are potentially useful in treating Type 2 Diabetes. There are many forms of mindful movement and practice can occur with different frequencies and durations. It would be useful to know what types and durations of Tai Chi practice were best for the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes. In today’s Research News article “Different training durations and styles of tai chi for glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Xia and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published controlled research literature on the effectiveness of different types and durations of Tai Chi practice for the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes.


They identified 17 research studies that included a comparison, control, group. They report that the research finds that in general Tai Chi practice produces significant improvements in the metabolic profile of Type 2 Diabetes patients including a significant reduction in fasting blood glucose levels, plasma HbA1c, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and body mass index (BMI). For fasting blood glucose levels, plasma HbA1c these reductions were greatest when Tai Chi had been practiced for at least 3 months. These differences were not significant for Yang style movements of Tai Chi, but were significant for other Tai Chi styles.


These results suggest that only certain styles of Tai Chi practiced for at least 3 months are effective in treating Type 2 diabetes. These are useful findings that further clarify what are the most effective parameters for Tai Chi practice for treating Type 2 diabetes. It is important to recognize that Tai Chi is a gentle and safe exercise that is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses. Also, Tai Chi is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. So, Tai Chi practice would appear to be an almost ideal gentle exercise to treat Type 2 Diabetes.


So, improve glucose control in Type 2 Diabetes with Tai Chi practice.


“According to two small studies, Tai Chi exercises can improve blood glucose levels and improve the control of type 2 diabetes and immune system response.” – Anna Sophia McKenney


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Xia, T. W., Yang, Y., Li, W. H., Tang, Z. H., Li, Z. R., & Qiao, L. J. (2019). Different training durations and styles of tai chi for glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 19(1), 63. doi:10.1186/s12906-019-2475-y




Physical activity is an important part of the diabetes management plan. However, the effects caused by different training durations and styles of Tai Chi have not been evaluated. We conducted an updated systematic review of the effects of Tai Chi on patients with type 2 diabetes based on different training durations and styles.


We performed a search for Chinese and English studies in 8 databases. Two reviewers independently selected the eligible trials and conducted a critical appraisal of the methodological quality.


Seventeen trials were included. Tai Chi was found to have reduced fasting blood glucose (FBG) [SMD = − 0.54, 95% CI (− 0.91, − 0.16), P = 0.005] and HbA1c [SMD = − 0.68, 95% CI (− 1.17, − 0.19), P = 0.006] overall, compared with a control group. Considering the subgroup analysis, the pooled results showed that 24 movements or Yang-style Tai Chi did not significantly reduce FBG after a duration of ≤3 months [SMD = − 0.46, 95% CI (− 1.42, 0.50), P = 0.35] or > 3 months [SMD = − 0.50, 95% CI (− 1.49, 0.49), P = 0.32], nor did it reduce HbA1c [SMD = − 1.22, 95% CI (− 2.90, 0.47), P = 0.16] after a duration > 3 months in all studies. However, other styles of Tai Chi significantly reduced FBG [SMD = − 0.90, 95% CI (− 1.28, − 0.52), P < 0.00001] and HbA1c [SMD = − 0.90, 95% CI (− 1.28, − 0.52), P < 0.00001] after a duration > 3 months, while no significant reduction in FBG [SMD = − 0.34, 95% CI (− 0.76, 0.08), P = 0.12] or HbA1c [SMD = − 0.34, 95% CI (− 0.76, 0.08), P = 0.12] was found after a duration ≤3 months.


Tai Chi seems to be effective in treating type 2 diabetes. Different training durations and styles result in variable effectiveness. The evidence was insufficient to support whether long-term Tai Chi training was more effective.


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