By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Tai Chi is a gentle, graceful, inspiring exercise that has been found to reduce blood pressure, improve balance and reduce falls. It also increases overall toning, improves posture and circulation, increases flexibility and strength.” – Nabi Su
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack” (Centers for Disease Control). High blood fat levels are an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease. They increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke three-fold. The good news is that in general, diet, exercise, and weight loss can reduce the levels of fat circulating in the blood.
Contemplative practices have also been shown to be helpful for heart health particularly those that are also exercises such as tai chi and yoga. Tai chi is an ancient contemplative practice involving slow motion smooth mindful movement. The reason that it has continued to be practiced by millions for centuries is that it has major mental and physical benefits. Modern research is verifying these benefits. Mindful movement practice has been shown to improve balance, self-concept, and attention span, reduce falls, boost the immune system and helps to relieve symptoms of arthritis, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, insomnia, even improve cancer recovery, and improve recovery from heart failure. So, it makes sense to further explore the effectiveness of Tai Chi practice for the control of blood fat levels.
In today’s Research News article “Effect of Tai Chi exercise on blood lipid profiles: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” See:
or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:
Pan and colleagues summarized the published research literature on the effects of tai chi practice on the levels of fats in the blood of Chinese adults. They found six randomized controlled trials, containing a control condition. Tai chi training ranged from 12 weeks to 12 months, with most between 12-14 weeks of practice. They reported that the literature found that tai chi practice produced a statistically significant decrease in blood fat levels overall and a trend toward a significant reduction in total blood cholesterol levels. But, there were no significant differences for either low-density or high-density lipoproteins.
These are promising results. It should be noted, however, that the majority of studies employed a wait-list control condition that did not contain a systematic exercise program. So, it cannot be determined if the effects on blood fat levels were due to tai chi practice specifically or would have been produced by any exercise program. But, since tai chi is a very gentle practice, it is safe for a wide range of individuals, including the elderly and patients compromised by other illnesses. So, tai chi is an excellent light exercise program that can improve blood fat levels and potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
So, lower blood fat with tai chi.
“So, it’s unclear what mechanism of action is responsible for the reduction in blood pressure, cholesterol and depressive symptoms among these folks, but it’s unlikely to be from Chinese exercise alone. A more probable explanation is that these patients adopted other health enhancing behaviors in addition to Chinese exercise such as improving their diet and/or engaging in physical exercises with a comparatively higher cardiac demand.” – American Council on Science and Health
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Pan, X., Mahemuti, A., Zhang, X., Wang, Y., Hu, P., Jiang, J., … Wang, J. (2016). Effect of Tai Chi exercise on blood lipid profiles: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Zhejiang University. Science. B, 17(8), 640–648. http://doi.org/10.1631/jzus.B1600052
Objective: Studies have demonstrated that Tai Chi exercise improves blood lipid level with inconsistent results. A meta-analysis was conducted to quantify the effects of Tai Chi on blood lipid profiles in humans. Methods: We screened the databases of PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Library (Central), Web of Science, China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), Wanfang data, and Clinicaltrials.gov for randomized controlled trials with Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) score more than 3 points up to June 2015. Six studies involving 445 subjects were included. Most trials applied 12-week Tai Chi intervention courses. Results: In comparison with the control group, blood triglyceride (TG) level difference between follow-up and baseline was statistically significantly lower in the Tai Chi practicing group (weighted mean difference (WMD) −16.81 mg/dl; 95% confidence intervals (CI) −31.27 to −2.35 mg/dl; P=0.02). A trend to improving total cholesterol (TC) reduction was found with Tai Chi (WMD −7.96 mg/dl; 95% CI −17.30 to 1.39 mg/dl; P=0.10). However, no difference was found in blood low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). Conclusions: Tai Chi exercise lowered blood TG level with a trend to decrease blood TC level. Our data suggest that Tai Chi has the potential to implement meaningful blood lipid modification and serve as an adjunctive exercise modality. The relationship between Tai Chi exercise regimen and lipid profile change might have a scientific priority for future investigation.