Evidence Base of Clinical Studies on T’ai Chi

February 10, 2019 Joe Brady

One of the hottest topics in modern biomedical research is also the world’s oldest and most popular forms of exercise used as medicine. According to the Harvard Medical Health Publication “T’ai chi is often described as meditation in motion, but it might well be called medication in motion”. Tai Chi has value in treating or preventing many health problems. One review of 507 studies and randomized clinical trials 94% reported positive effects of T’ai Chi on hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, COPD, heart disease, depression and even schizophrenia. Many more studies are underway to explore the medical benefits of this mind/body exercise.

The quantity and evidence base of clinical studies on T’ai Chi is substantial.  A total of 507 studies on T’ai Chi have been published between 1958 and 2013. The top 10 diseases/conditions was hypertension, diabetes, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis or osteopenia, breast cancer, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary heart disease, schizophrenia, and depression.

“T’ai chi chuan – The Supreme Ultimate Exercise”

Developed over the last 8 centuries, T’aijiquan (T’ai chi) is currently the primary form of physical and exercise therapy in the Peoples’ Republic of China. With an estimated 100 million practitioners of over twenty years experience in China alone, T’aijiquan has become one of the world’s most popular forms of long term physical activity.   The AMA says “T’ai chi’s purpose is to moderately exercise all the muscles and achieve integration between mind and body.  The China Sports editorial board defines T’aijiquan as “physical exercises of consciousness.” Using skills taught in T’ai chi we can all perform better at everything we do.

The 507 studies were conducted in 21 different countries, and the majority of studies (317/507, 62.5%) were conducted in China, followed by the United States (104/507, 20.5%) 

Many healthy participants practiced T’ai Chi for the purpose of health promotion or preservation. Yang style T’ai chi was the most popular, and T’ai Chi was frequently practiced two to three 1-hour sessions per week for 12 weeks. The majority of studies (94.1%) reported positive effects of T’ai chi and no serious adverse events related to T’ai chi were reported.

The first clinical study on T’ai chi published in 1958 in Chinese, which was a case series on Tuberculosis (TB) [12], and the first RCT on T’ai chi was published in 1988 in Chinese, in which T’ai chi combined with Qigong were designed as a cardiac rehabilitation program [13]. The publication of clinical studies on T’ai chi increased with years, especially after the year 2000 

Among the 507 studies, 94 % found positive effect of T’ai chi, the most frequently reported outcomes were:

Physical performance

Strength, flexibility, cardiovascular function,, pulmonary function, body mass index

Four systematic reviews focused on fall prevention

Balance, falls prevention, fracture, fear of falling, 

Heart Disease, Diabetes

Coronary heart disease, angina, hypertension

Minnesota Living With Heart Failure Questionnaire

Type 2 diabetes

St George’s Respiratory Questionnaire

Mental Health

Four systematic reviews assessed the effect of T’ai chi on psychological well-being

Psychological well-being, depression, stress, mood, 

Self-efficacy, anxiety, self-esteem, 

Quality of life,

Quality of sleep

Arthritis, Cancer, Parkinsons

Breast cancer, 

Osteoarthritis, rheumatic arthritis, 

Parkinson disease, 

This review reflects the most comprehensive analysis to date of the clinical evidence on T’ai chi for rehabilitation and health. There is a steady growth of clinical evidence for T’ai chi, especially higher level evidence such as Randomly Controlled Trials. 

T’ai chi has been examined in clinical trials in 21 countries, including both developed and developing countries worldwide. Of note, this research is mainly supported by governments, indicating the broad higher level interest in T’ai chi among national health care organizations.

Healthy, fully functional people are money in the bank for the whole of society.

From National Institutes of Health

Evidence Base of Clinical Studies on T’ai Chi: A Bibliometric Analysis

Guo-Yan Yang,1 Li-Qiong Wang,#1 Jun Ren,#1 Yan Zhang,2 Meng-Ling Li,2 Yu-Ting Zhu,2 Jing Luo,2,3 Yan-Jun Cheng,2,4 Wen-Yuan Li,1 Peter M. Wayne,5 and Jian-Ping Liu1,2,*

Roberta W. Scherer, Academic Editor

read the study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4361587/