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First it was about Taoist’s enlightenment, meditation and self-defense in the 13th century, then it was seen as an exercise for the old and those who got nothing else to do. Now, it might be the easy exercise that one can practice to effectively curb diabetes and thus saving and prolonging one’s life.

Tai Chi, better known as Tai Ji Quan (太极拳) was founded by Master Zhang San Feng (张三丰), one of my most admired heros in Chinese history. Since then,  it has more than 100 possible movements and positions and is now enjoyed by people all over the world.  Many Community Clubs (CC) in Singapore have regular Taiji or Qigong classes and there are also many free video online. Unlike many exercises, this dance-like exercise can be done by people of all ages as it is slow (some movements are fast paced), gentle, graceful self-paced kind of exercise and does not required any equipment. It can be done at any permissible open space with clean air.

Yin Yang - Taiji symboltaijimove.jpg

It is easy yet not that easy as it combines movements with meditation to align the body and the mind. Those who had been practicing it can attest to its benefits of reducing stress; increase agility, flexibility, energy, stamina as well as improve muscular strength. Overall, it is a great feeling and makes one sleeps well.

 The British Journal of Sports Medicine has just reported that studies by researchers in Taiwan and Australia indicated that Tai Chi exercises can help people control type-2 diabetes, the disease suffered by some 250millions people worldwide and which can lead to blindness, kidney failure, high blood pressure and heart disease.

 Of the group of 30 diabetics involved in the Taiwanese study, at the end of the 12 weeks (3hours per week) program in which they learned 37 Tai Chi movements, their blood sugar level had dropped. The levels of glycated haemoglobin  (excess sugar carried by red blood cells) fell significantly. Thus, the researchers suggested that Tai Chi may prompt a fall in blood glucose levels, or improve blood glucose metabolism, which in turn sparks a drop in the inflammatory response

 In Australia, 11 diabetic patients were put to a 12 week sessions of Tai Chi and Qigong 气功(Chinese Yoga) for 60 to 90 minutes three times a week. The result was they have less craving for food, slept better, experienced less pain but more energy, lost weight averaging 3kg, waist line reduced by almost 3cm but most importantly, their insulin resistance improved, blood sugar level dropped and blood pressure dropped significantly.

 It was explained that “the relaxation element of Tai Chi may help to reduce stress levels, preventing the release of adrenalin which can lead to insulin resistance and high blood glucose levels”.

 Long live the tradition of Tai Chi which promotes maintaining optimum functioning of the body’s self-regulating systems to restore the body to its natural state of health through the cultivation of inner strength and calming the mind.

WANT TO REDUCE WEIGHT? PLAY SOCCER Sports scientist Peter Krustrup and his colleagues from the University of Copenhagen, the Copenhagen University Hospital and Bispebjerg Hospital did a research which showed that playing soccer is healthier, burn more fat and more fun than jogging.

For a period of 12 weeks, a group of soccer players and joggers have been active for one hour 2-3 times a week. The participants have been continuingly subjected to tests: fitness rating, percentage of body fat, total mass of muscles, cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and balance.

After the period, the result :

* Soccer players – lost 3.5 kilos of fat, gained more than 2 kilos of extra muscle mass
* Joggers – lost 2 kilos of fat, no change in total muscle mass.
* Both groups – showed significant improvements in blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and balance

Peter Krustrup said that “Soccer is an all-round form of practise because it both keeps the pulse up and has many high-intensity actions. When you sprint, jump and tackle your opponents, you use all the fibres in your muscles. When you jog at a moderate pace, you only use the slow fibres.”

Although both groups moved at the same average speed, soccer is more fun than jogging because jogging focuses on oneself, which led to the joggers noticing their efforts and the breathlessness and can lead to them feeling sorry for themselves. Soccer players forget it is hard because all contributed to the effort as they focus on the game and don’t notice that their hearts are pounding.

Therefore, to fight obesity and inactivity, soccer seems to be an obvious alternative to jogging and fitness.

What’s in coffee drinking that lowers gout risk ?

There is no answer as it is not caffeine.

It is recently researched by the University of British Columbia that coffee (including decaffeinated) drinking (4 or more coffees a day) is more likely to have a much lower uric acid level in the blood.

I will take it that the kind of coffee mentioned in the research is the usual “diluted” “no-kick” morning coffee found in hotels and fast food restaurants and not those dark and strong kopi (coffee) that we drink in the kopitiam (coffee shop) in Singapore and other Asian countries. Drinking 4 or more local kopi per day even for a coffee drinker like me will be too much for my heart.

Normally, uric acid dissolves in the blood and passes through the kidneys and out of the body in urine. Uric acid comes from the breakdown of substances called purines. Although purines are found in all of our body’s tissues, uric acid can build up in the blood when a person eats too many foods high in purines, such as liver, dried beans and peas, and anchovies.

When the kidneys do not get rid of enough of the uric acid, it can later crystallize out of the blood into the joints. The result is gout, one of the most painful forms of arthritis. It can wake one up in the middle of the night with pain, swelling, heat and or stiffness in the joints in the big toe, ankles, heels, knees, insteps, wrists, fingers, etc.

A gout attack can be brought on by stressful events, too much beer, or eating too much red meat or drugs, or another illness. Early attacks usually get better within 3 to 10 days, even without treatment. The next attack may not occur for months or even years.

The main way to tackle the condition is to take anti-inflammatory pills, change diet and drink more water, or in more severe cases, to take more powerful drugs to reduce uric acid levels in the blood.

Researchers said that coffee drinking can lead to lower insulin levels in the blood, and that there is an established link between higher insulin levels and higher uric acid levels. However, high blood uric acid levels does not necessarily lead to gout attack as some people with high uric acid levels throughout life don’t suffer such attack.

So it looks like it is about not letting the uric acid crystallises out of the blood into the joints. That means healthy kidney, healthy diet with balanced purine-producing food. So, apart from my kopi-O (black coffee with sugar), I’m continuing with my daily consumption of Clerodendranthus Spicatus or Cat Whiskers tea and start drinking more red wine than beer.