Anyone familiar with the martial art Tai Chi Chuan knows the many physical benefits it provides. But now the rest of us have proof. New studies coming out of Australia and Taiwan show that the ancient martial art lowers weight, helps curb type 2 diabetes, and increases immune function. Wow! It does all that? Yup. Check it out.

In the Aussie study, conducted at the University of Queensland, researchers led middle-aged and older participants through 12 weeks of Tai Chi. The program consisted of three 1.5 hour sessions per week, and participants were also encouraged to practice on their own at home. At the end of the study period, participants were found to have lost an average 6.5 pounds, and their blood glucose levels improved (all had metabolic syndrome–a triumvirate of medical conditions including diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure). Participants also showed significant decreases in blood pressure, more than what could be accounted for by simple weight loss.

In the Taiwanese study, participants were also taken through 12 weeks of Tai Chi. Researchers found an increase in both helper T-cells (important immune system cells) and interleukin levels (immune system mediators) in the participants. And as an added benefit, researchers found a decrease in levels of glycated hemoglobin–excess sugar carried by red blood cells–in participants that had diabetes.

These findings are huge. By doing moderately paced exercise–as Tai Chi Chuan is–one can significantly decrease their chances of developing type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome; or even improve one’s chances of managing the disorders if already affected. Excellent. I studied Tai Chi myself very briefly about 15 years ago (the school I attended in San Francisco and, in my opinion, the very best). I found it a stupendous form of exercise. However, I do wish to point out, just as the authors of the Australian study have, that any form moderate exercise will accomplish the same results. It’s just that the benefit of Tai Chi Chuan come from its slow, flowing pace and wide sweeping, rhythmic motions. These types of movements, I think, connect us to a Universal rhythm, which have deeper, spiritual effects on us. Other than that, though, doing Tai Chi should also help you kick a little ass–and that never hurts now does it?

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