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  • Writer's picturePatrick Foley

Tai Chi v Zumba

BBC Science Unit/ Trust Me I'm a Doctor - Mike Duffy - Oct 10 2018
Do you have to work up a sweat to get fit?

The health benefits of exercise are constantly drummed into us.

But many of us simply don't fancy working up a sweat - or aren't able to.

So is there a way we can get the benefits without the huffing and puffing?

Tai chi may offer one solution.

It originated as a form of self-defence, but over hundreds of years, it's been refined into a series of slow and graceful movements which are supposed to help both mind and body.

But can something so slow and graceful really give you the benefits of a more vigorous workout?

Tai chi v Zumba

To find out, the Trust Me I'm a Doctor team worked with exercise scientists from the University of Birmingham.

A small group of volunteers, aged between 65 and 75, none of whom did regular exercise, were assigned to either 12 weeks of regular sessions of Zumba Gold - a class specially tailored for people in later life - with the rest doing regular tai chi.

At the beginning, middle and end of the 12 weeks, the volunteers had their blood pressure checked and the flexibility of their blood vessels measured using ultrasound - part of exercise's power to improve your health lies in its ability to improve both of these.

The more flexible your blood vessels, the healthier they are.

Scientists also measured the volunteers' blood for levels of antioxidants and other raised levels of chemical markers of stress and inflammation - which may sound bad, but they're actually a healthy response to exercise and lie behind many of its benefits.

As might be expected, the Zumba Gold group were all fitter after the 12 weeks. Their blood vessels were more elastic and their blood pressure had dropped, while their blood results showed improvements too.

More surprisingly, the results from the tai chi group showed similar benefits, with improvements in blood biomarkers results, blood pressure and vessel flexibility.

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