Comparison of the effects of swimming and Tai Chi Chuan on body fat composition in elderly people

Tung Yang Yu, Yu-Cheng Pei, Yiu Chung Lau, Chih Kuang Chen, Hung Chih Hsu, Alice May-Kuen Wong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Accumulation of fat and substantial loss of muscle mass are common phenomena in the elderly. In this study, we observed the effects of Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) and swimming, two exercises suitable for elderly people, on the percentage body fat and fat distribution by measuring subcutaneous adipose tissue thickness and body composition. Methods: Subjects were divided into three groups: regular swimmers (n = 20), regular TCC practitioners (n = 32), and age-matched control subjects (n = 31). Subcutaneous adipose tissue thickness was taken using a Lange skinfold caliper at the chests, abdomens, and thighs in the men, and the triceps, suprailium, and thighs in the women. Mid-arm circumference (MAC) was measured on the non-dominant upper arm using fiberglass tape. Body composition was analyzed using the Inbody 3.0 logo, a bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) system. Results: No significant differences were found between the three test groups in relation to total body adiposity and arm muscle circumference in the men and women. There was significantly less subcutaneous adipose tissue at the abdomen (p = 0.011) and thigh (p < 0.001) of TCC-group men and at the thighs (p < 0.001) of the swimming group compared with the control group. In women, only the thigh skinfold (p = 0.002) showed a decrease in the TCC group compared with the control group. Conclusion: Swimming and TCC may not decrease total fat adiposity in elderly men and women, however, they may change body fat distribution due to certain muscle group usage. The differences observed in the effects of exercise on body fat distribution between elderly women and men may be gender-related.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-134
Number of pages7
JournalChang Gung Medical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 03 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Body composition
  • Fat distribution
  • Swimming
  • Tai Chi Chuan


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