Study explores benefits of Tai Chi

By AltMed1-Peggy  

Studies exploring the benefits of Tai Chi show this form of alternative medicine helps reduce stress, anxiety, depression and mood disorders and also helps raise self-esteem.

Although Tai chi   is fairly new here in the US,  the popularity of this mind-body exercise is growing.  Tai chi is an ancient martial art that has been practiced in China for centuries.  From an alternative medicine point of view, Tai chi is a low-impact therapy to improve health and fitness that includes deep breathing and  “moving meditation.”  Many Tai chi studies been done and published.

A team of researchers led by Chenchen Wang, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Tufts Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts, selected 40 Tai Chi studies involving 3,817 subjects (people participating in the studies) from English and Chinese databases for analysis.

Of the 40 selected studies for review, 17 were randomized controlled trials. The rest were less rigorous and the researchers say most of the studies lacked these important key elements:

  • rigorous (strictly accurate) research 
  • prospective research (a "prospective" study is one that follows the same group of people over time)
  • well controlled study (a controlled study compares the treatment that is being tested to a known treatment – for example, if the study looked at depression, it might compare the test treatment, Tai Chi, to a known treatment such as a leading antidepressant prescription drug)
  • randomized (participants are randomly selected, which means that to make the comparison as fair as possible, people who participate in the study are assigned at random to be in the group that tries the test treatment or the group that tries a known treatment)
  • used validated measurements of outcome (showed their results using tried-and-true methods that could be confirmed by others)

Bottom line 

So what’s the bottom line? 

At this point, we know Tai chi is a very promising therapy that could open the door to new ways to improve both physical and psychological health –  including treating chronic conditions – but before we can say exactly how it helps, what conditions it helps or what it is best for, we need more detailed research.

The study by Dr. Wang’s team was published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, an open access journal of original peer-reviewed research articles. If you’re a fan of alternative medicine research and want to keep up on the latest research, bookmark this journal.

Want to read the details of this study?  You’ll find it online here:

Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis, Chenchen Wang, Raveendhara Bannuru, Judith Ramel, Bruce Kupelnick, Tammy Scott, Christopher H Schmid
BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010, 10:23 (21 May 2010)

If you’re interested in the fascinating history of Tai chi and its many applications, click this link go to the  Tai chi chuan page on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia online.




(c) 2010, all rights reserved.


  1. Posted June 7, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Peggy. Glad to see discussion of a Taiji study on your blog. The amazing benefits of Taiji and Qigong are no secret to those of us who train seriously. I have trained with a top Taiji and Qigong master for more than a decade and teach several classes a week. Yes, you’re right–a good Taiji teacher should adjust for the capabilities of his or her students. If their understanding is deep enough and they are compassionate, they’ll figure out how to do that. I have a 76-yr-old student with an artificial knee, and I am able to gently challenge her in a way that offers multiple benefits, even though she’ll never be physically capable of some of the more physically demanding postures and moves. Taiji is a wonderful art, with a lot to offer in terms of healing and wellness.


  2. Posted June 1, 2010 at 8:53 am | Permalink | Reply

    Appreciate the post and the use of the word “explore” since so much still needs to be learned. But, anecdotally, I think Tai Chi has multiple benefits…just not the ones people think. I have rheumatoid arthritis and have found it hard to do many of the “positions” in a way that is technically correct. However, the pace, the slow methodical movements and the silence have definitely been a stress reliever. I’ve really enjoyed the practice. And the novelty — simply learning something new — has been a positive thing too. Thanks for the post.

    • AltMed1
      Posted June 1, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for sharing this, Polly. I have seen local hospitals offering Tai Chi classes for arthritis. When you learned, was there an instructor teaching how to achieve the positions? I am interested but haven’t tried it yet and until you mentioned this, I thought it would be taught in a manner similar to a yoga class, with personal instruction from someone who should (though I know this is not always the case) know how to help people adapt the moves or poses to their abilities. And I think you’re right – there must be many other ways Tai Chi can be beneficial and many conditions it could help. I hope this study will spur the kind of research that will sharpen our focus and helps us learn how best to use it. Thanks, again!

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