When most people think about Tai Chi, they are not usually associating the practice with calorie burn or reducing waist circumference. You may not realize just how many calories those slow, graceful movements will shed. It has been calculated that a 125-pound person burns approximately 240 calories in a one-hour session, while a 155-pound person burns approximately 300 and a 185-pound person burns roughly 356. With those numbers, that Tai Chi session is about the equivalent—in terms of calorie burning—of an hour-long walk done at 3.5 mph.
To give you a rough calculation, there is a handy exercise calculator. The great news is that a 30-minute Tai Chi session can equal the calorie burn of 15 minutes of aerobics, and burn more calories than 15 minutes of cross-training. And no other activity can give you the combination of physical, emotional, and mental health benefits as Tai Chi. A good Tai Chi instructor will help you get the most out of your Tai Chi classes and still be mindful of your body and physical considerations.
Tai Chi Can Reduce Waist Circumference
A 2021 study published in the NIH library, shows that Tai Chi mirrors the beneficial effects of conventional exercise by reducing waist circumference in middle-aged and older adults with central obesity. In the study, 543 participants were randomly assigned in a 1:1:1 ratio to a control group with no exercise intervention, conventional exercise consisting of aerobic exercise and strength training, and a tai chi group. The interventions lasted 12 weeks. The findings suggest that Tai Chi is an effective approach for management of central obesity—which is directly linked to a high risk of type 2 diabetes. Outcomes were assessed at baseline, week 12, and week 38. The primary outcome was waist circumference. Secondary outcomes were body weight; body mass index; high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), triglyceride, and fasting plasma glucose levels; blood pressure; and incidence of remission of central obesity.
Above and Beyond Ordinary Exercise
While Tai Chi may not quite compare to the calorie burn of a vigorous jog or strenuous cycle, this ancient martial art improves your flexibility, coordination, endurance, stamina, and strength in a way no other activity can. Plus, studies have shown that there is nothing better for conditioning the body for fall prevention.
Tai Chi is Flexible
Not only does Tai Chi aid your flexibility, but the practice itself is also flexible. You can burn more or fewer calories just by changing the way you practice. Sink a little deeper, move a little slower, and practice a little longer for more calorie burn. Feeling too tired? Take it a bit easy. You may just find that after several minutes, you suddenly have more energy than when you started and you practice longer than you thought you would.