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When you think of exercise, your mind probably straight goes to a sweaty image of feeling out of breath. While high-intensity exercise is designed to get your heart pumping and break a sweat, not all exercise is so full-on. In fact, “gentle” and “slow” exercise that resembles “meditation” could be enough to boost your heart health, according to Dr Michael Mosley.
If the idea of hitting your local gym or going for a run doesn’t appeal to you one bit, you’re not alone.
But not all exercise requires leaving the comfort of your home and sweating through your t-shirt.
Speaking on his podcast Just One Thing, Dr Mosley said: “I’m in my garden, and I’m doing some gentle slow exercise that should not only improve my balance but may also benefit my immune system and my heart health.
“I am doing Tai Chi – an ancient Chinese martial art.
“It’s sometimes called shadow boxing, or perhaps more aptly, meditation in motion.
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“And it’s a series of different postures that are supposed to gently flow into each other in slow movements.”
The words like “gentle” and “slow”, that the doctor used to describe Tai Chi, are at its core.
Unlike running or cycling, Tai Chi is a low-impact exercise that only requires going through a series of motions named after animal actions, for example, “white crane spreads its wings”, the Harvard Medical School explains.
As you go through these moves, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention on your body.
If this isn’t enough to get you to add Tai Chi to your daily routine, the benefits linked to this ancient practice might.
Dr Mosley said: “Tai Chi is said to be good for heart health.
“During a recent study, where they compared it to brisk walking, they found that Tai Chi was significantly better at reducing not only blood pressure, but also other risk factors for heart disease such as blood sugar levels, and cholesterol.”
It’s no secret that all of these conditions lay the groundwork for serious health problems if left to their own devices.
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A healthy diet and medication is usually the first port of call when it comes to managing high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
But physical movement could also offer some benefits, with Tai Chi seeming to be especially potent.
That’s not to say that you should stop taking your medications or stop following your doctor’s orders.
Furthermore, slashing your risk of all of these health problems does not only protect your heart but it could also boost your longevity.
Dr Mosley said: “A study published in 2022, which followed 60,000 men in Shanghai for five years, found that those who practiced Tai Chi regularly lived significantly longer than those who didn’t.
“Which could just mean that people who practice Tai Chi are more careful about their health, or that there really is something else going on.”
If you feel compelled to add this “gentle” exercise to your routine, the doctor shared “it’s easy to do at home and you don’t even need to get changed”.
Online videos and routines could help you get into the swing of things and master this powerful exercise.
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