Tai Chi vs Zumba

As part of the BBC’s long-running show Trust Me, I’m Doctor (Series 8, Episode 6, 10/10/2018) the presenter, Dr Michael Mosley, tried Tai Chi for the first time. He reported that he felt calmer afterwards, but he was also surprised that he felt to have had a real workout.

During this trial he was given a series of medical tests before and afterwards which showed his heart rate had nearly doubled. “It seems to be doing the exactly same thing as a bout of aerobic exercise!” said one of the – also surprised – doctors testing him.

Alongside this, his blood pressure decreased, an ultrasound scan of his blood vessels showed they were more dilated, flexible and elastic, and there was a rise in antioxidants and other chemical markers of stress and inflammation in his system. A couple of those might sound alarming but they are all healthy responses to exercise, and lie behind many of its benefits.

The show then moved on to a study run by researchers at the University of Birmingham. A 12-week programme was conducted with two groups of people – one doing Tai Chi, the other, Zumba. Similar tests were run on both groups, and Tai Chi scored as just as highly as Zumba. “Tai Chi was as good as Zumba. Your blood pressure went down, your vessel health improved, your health markers improved, your antioxidants went up. All the results point to similar effects for Tai Chi – so it’s as good!” said one of the researchers to a group of rather pleased people who had been in the study.

Steve Blake, TMW Teacher

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