By Dr. Max Gomez

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As the country continues to open up, many are looking for ways to lose what’s being called the “COVID 15” — the weight many people gained over the past year.

Exercise can be a big help in weight loss but spending time inside a gym isn’t always appealing.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports, a new study finds tai chi could be a good option.

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The ancient movement art of tai chi has been described as meditation in motion. It’s easy to learn. More than 2 million people in the U.S. practice it. And while it doesn’t look very strenuous, a rigorous new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that tai chi may actually be an effective way to reduce belly fat in middle age.

“Our study of older adults found that both tai chi and conventional exercise improved central obesity by reducing waist circumference and body weight to a greater degree than those in our study who did not exercise regularly,” said Dr. Parco M. Siu of the University of Hong Kong.

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Researchers from the University of Hing Kong randomly assigned more than 500 adults over 50 with central obesity to a regimen of tai chi, conventional exercise, or no exercise over three months.

Central obesity, as measured by waist circumference, is a key marker of a cluster of heart health issues, and the authors found some benefits in the smaller waist sizes.

“In our study, tai chi and conventional exercise provide about equal benefit in terms of reduced waist circumference and improvement in some metabolic issues for middle-aged adults with central obesity,” Siu said.

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And because tai chi is a gentle mind-body exercise, it could be a good alternative for middle-aged and older adults who may be averse to conventional exercise.

Tai chi is also well suited for older adults, especially those who have not been previously active, because it involves smooth and gentle body movements, but this is the first time its health benefits have been measured in a scientific study.

Tai chi is also easy to learn. You can even try online classes to see if it’s a good fit for you.

Dr. Max Gomez