The Benefits of Tai Chi

Can Tai Chi Boost Your Health and Wellbeing?

A tai chi class.
Tai chi is an ancient technique which may promote health and wellbeing. Tim Platt/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Tai chi is a mind-body practice often used to enhance mental and physical health. Although it was initially developed as a martial art, it's commonly practiced as a form of moving meditation. Many practitioners of tai chi use this technique to reduce stress, as well as to improve posture, balance, flexibility, and strength.

In addition, tai chi is said to boost mood, alleviate pain, strengthen the immune system, and improve heart health.

Tai chi involves performing slow, graceful exercises that combine movement, meditation, and rhythmic breathing. According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, these exercises can help stimulate the flow of vital energy (also known as "chi") and, in turn, promote healing from a variety of health conditions.

The Health Benefits of Tai Chi

In recent years, studies have shown that taking up tai chi may be beneficial to people with certain health conditions.

In a research review published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine in 2014, for example, scientists analyzed 21 previously published studies with a total of 1,200 patients and found that tai chi appears to have positive effects on health-related quality of life in people with chronic conditions. According to the review's authors, tai chi may be especially helpful for patients with conditions affecting their cardiovascular, respiratory, brain, and/or musculoskeletal health.

Here's a look at several other key findings from the available research on tai chi and its potential health benefits:

1) Osteoarthritis

There's some encouraging evidence suggesting that tai chi may help control pain in people with osteoarthritis of the knee, according to a research review published in Clinical Rheumatology in 2008.

However, the review also found little evidence that tai chi can help improve physical function in osteoarthritis patients.

Related: Osteoarthritis Pain Relief Remedies

2) Heart Disease

A research review published in the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention in 2009 determined that tai chi may be beneficial as an add-on therapy for some patients with cardiovascular disease or at risk for cardiovascular disease. In their analysis of 29 previously published studies, the review's authors noted that tai chi practice was associated with improvements in blood pressure control and in exercise capacity.

Furthermore, a research review published in Preventive Cardiology in 2008 indicates that adding tai chi to your blood pressure management plan may help further lower your blood pressure.

Related: Natural Approach to High Blood Pressure

3) Parkinson's Disease

It's too soon to tell whether tai chi might benefit people with Parkinson's disease, suggests a research review published in Parkinsonism & Related Disorders in 2008. While the review found some evidence that practicing tai chi may help prevent falls in Parkinson's patients, its authors note that most of the available research on this topic suffers from significant flaws.

Related: 3 Alternative Treatments for Parkinson's Disease

4) Psychological Health

For a research review published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine in 2014, investigators sized up 42 previously published studies testing the effects on tai chi on psychological wellbeing. Although the reviewed studies demonstrated that tai chi may have beneficial effects on issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress, the review's authors note that these studies had considerable limitations and that more research is needed to establish tai chi's effects on psychological health.

Related: 8 Natural Depression Remedies and Natural Remedies for Anxiety

More Benefits

Emerging research suggests that tai chi may also help treat several other health conditions, including back pain and fibromyalgia.

There's also some evidence that tai chi may help promote recovery from stroke, as well as improve quality of life, reduce fatigue, and boost immune function in people with cancer.

Safety and Side Effects

While tai chi appears to be safe for most healthy people (when done correctly), it should not be used as a substitute for standard care in the treatment of a chronic health condition. Also, if you have a health condition such as arthritis, it's important to consult your doctor before starting tai chi to see if it's appropriate for you.

How to Practice Tai Chi

Tai chi is frequently taught in groups in health centers, community centers, offices, and schools. You can also learn tai chi techniques from books, as well as from audio and video resources. However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health cautions that learning tai chi from a video or book does not ensure that you're doing the movements correctly or safely.

Pronunciation: tai-chee

Also Known As: t'ai chi, tai chi chuan, tai chi chih, tai ji juan, tai ji quan, taijiquan, tai ji, taiji, shadow boxing


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Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using any alternative medicine or making any change to your regimen.