Tai chi is a mind-body practice that involves a series of slow, flowing exercises that combine movement, meditation and rhythmic breathing. Although it was initially developed as a martial art, it’s commonly practiced as a form of “moving meditation.” According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, tai chi’s movements can help stimulate the flow of vital energy (also known as “chi”) and, in turn, promote healing from a variety of health conditions.
In a research review published in Canadian Family Physician in 2016, for example, researchers analyzed previously published studies and found “excellent evidence” that tai chi appears to be helpful for Parkinson’s disease, osteoarthritis, preventing falls, improving cognitive function in older adults and rehabilitation for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Here’s a look at several key findings.
The reviewed studies demonstrated that tai chi may have beneficial effects on cognitive function, particularly in older adults without existing cognitive impairment. The effect size in adults without cognitive impairment was large compared to no intervention and moderate when compared to exercise.
Preventing Falls in Older Adults
Tai chi may help older adults improve their balance and prevent falls, according to a research review published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society. In their analysis of ten previously published studies, the review’s authors found that tai chi practiced for 12 to 26 weeks, one to three times weekly, reduced the incidence of falls by 43 percent (compared to other interventions) in those who were followed for 12 months or less. There was no effect of tai chi on the time until an older adult first has a fall.
Tai chi might benefit people with Parkinson’s disease, suggests a research review published in Clinical Rehabilitation in 2018. After reviewing ten previously published studies, the authors found that tai chi significantly reduced falls in people with Parkinson’s disease and stroke. Tai chi also improved balance in those with Parkinson’s disease.
Emerging research suggests that tai chi may also help treat several other health conditions, including back pain and cancer-related fatigue. There’s also some evidence that tai chi may be an effective cardiac rehabilitation method for people with chronic heart failure.
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 can you practice tai chi?
Our tai chi class is taught by Dan Hodes. Dan began studying Tai Chi Chuan in 1975 and has never quit. He has been teaching around the Phoenix area for seven years. His introduction came from Sifu Jim Simms, a champion martial arts competitor from the 1960s and student of George Ling Hu. Dan furthered his studies with Professors Hou and Wei. His class meets Mondays and Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m. The fee is $4 for drop-ins or one punch from a punch card that can be purchased at the front desk of the Sports Club.
Excerpts taken from The Benefits of Tai Chi, Can Tai Chi Boost Your Health and Wellbeing? by Cathy Wong | Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician | Updated May 30, 2018.