How can tai chi help control blood sugar?

There's an Eastern-based exercise that may be perfect for people who hate slugging it out at the gym but need to exercise to control their blood sugar. It's called tai chi.

And not only is it fun, easy, relaxing and gentle, but a recent six-month study suggests it may also help people with type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar.

In the study, researchers compared the fasting and average A1c blood sugar levels of two groups: one that practiced tai chi and a control group that did not. And the tai chi group enjoyed about half a percent drop in their A1c levels. Although it sounds like a modest benefit, the researchers noted that it's enough to reduce the risk of diabetic complications like kidney damage, diabetic retinopathy and nerve damage and possibly even extend people's lives.

Tai chi -- particularly the Yang form used in the study -- seems to have the right balance of blood-sugar-lowering aerobic exercise and strength training recommended for folks with type 2 diabetes. And although more study is needed to determine if tai chi could help control blood sugar in people who do not have diabetes, there are lots of other reasons to try it. In addition to boosting balance and fitness, practitioners have also reported feeling more energized, happier, and more social. Plus, you don't need good weather, weights or a gym to do it. Just a video in your own home can do the trick.

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