A pilot study for Australia's first clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of traditional Chinese exercises in preventing the growing problem of diabetes has produced startling results.
The team from The University of Queensland found that by performing the Chinese exercises Qigong and Tai Chi, participants significantly improved several indicators of metabolic syndrome including HbA1c, blood pressure, bodyweight and waist circumference.
PhD student Liu Xin, a Qigong and Tai Chi master, developed the series of exercises for the control of diabetes.
He said it was encouraging to see such impressive results over a short period of time and he is now looking for more participants to take part in further trials.
"The results of the study show that this specific program has a beneficial effect on indicators of glucose metabolism and may therefore play a role in developing secondary prevention strategies for Type 2 diabetes," he said.
During the three month pilot study 11 participants undertook the exercise program. The program included Qigong (pronounced chi kung) - a combination of movement, breathing and mind training. It is believed that the 5000-year-old self-healing art helps cleanse the body of toxins, restore energy and reduce stress and anxiety.
The Diabetes Queensland Qigong Program, funded by the Diabetes Australia Research Trust, is being conducted at UQ's School of Human Movement Studies by Mr Liu, project leader Professor Wendy Brown and researchers Dr Yvette Miller and Dr Nicola Burton.
Australia has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the developed world. An estimated 7.5 percent of adults aged 25 years and over have diabetes and a further 16 percent of adults are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Mr Liu, who has studied Qigong and Tai Chi for more than 30 years, said the spiral movements of the specially designed exercises could stimulate the muscles more than conventional exercises, leading to greater uptake and utilisation of glucose.
He said participants in the UQ study had reported many health benefits from the program including increased flexibility, more energy and better sleeping patterns. All participants said they would continue with the program.
"One of the most important results that came from the study was the significant reduction in waist circumference measurement," he said.
"Waist circumference is an indicator of central obesity and central obesity is recognised as an important risk factor for developing many health problems including diabetes and cardiovascular diseases."
Information: the researchers are currently looking to recruit volunteers with raised blood glucose levels to take part in a clinical trial, which will begin in January 2006. People at risk of diabetes (fasting blood glucose greater than 5.6 mmol/L) or in the early stages of diabetes, but not yet taking any medication to control blood glucose levels, should contact Mr Liu by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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