Taking up tai chi may have an immune-enhancing effect on people with diabetes, according to a small study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. After 12 weeks of practicing the gentle martial art, 30 diabetes patients had a drop in their levels of interleukin-4, a protein that suppresses immune response. Levels of immune-stimulating interleukin-12, meanwhile, doubled after they'd finished their course.
"Other studies have shown that tai chi seems to strengthen the immune system," says Peter Wayne, Ph.D., director of Tai Chi Research Programs at Harvard Medical School. "That may be particularly relevant to people with diabetes, who are more vulnerable to infection." What's more, he adds, tai chi's positive impact on heart health and stress reduction, and possibly on weight management, might aid in diabetes prevention. Wayne recommends practicing for 45 minutes three times a week.
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