Tai Chi curbs diabetes

The dance-like exercise tai chi, practised by tens of millions of people in China and around the world, can help limit the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, two studies say. In separate experiments in Australia and Taiwan, diabetes patients who performed tai chi for a few hours a week over three months showed significant health improvements compared with control groups.

Type 2 diabetes happens when the body fails to produce or process enough insulin, critical in converting glucose into energy. The disease, which afflicts about 250 million worldwide, can cause blindness, kidney failure, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Other forms of moderate exercise have been shown to help keep the disease in check, the researchers said. But these Chinese exercises may be easier to learn than gym-based exercises and do not require any complicated or expensive equipment, the University of Queensland team said.

Diabetes is linked to a sedentary lifestyle and obesity, but heart-pounding exertion is not necessarily good either, say the studies, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Strenuous physical activity depresses the immune system response, they say, while moderate exercise seems to have the opposite effect.

Developed in China, in about the 13th century, tai chi combines elements of martial arts and meditation.

Melbourne Herald Sun, Friday, April 4, 2008