Evidence based Health benefits of Tai Chi
(with sincere thanks to www.The Tai Chi Effect.)
In China, it is believed that tai chi can delay aging and prolong life, increase flexibility, strengthen muscles and tendons, and aid in the treatment of heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, digestive disorders, skin diseases, depression, cancer, and many other illnesses.
Over the past two decades, there has been a lot of serious research done by researchers at such respected institutions as the Mayo Clinic, John Hopkins Medical School and Harvard Medical School (and many more) specifically on what effects Tai Chi practice may have on a variety of health conditions. The results have been astonishing.
Medical research has shown that Tai Chi is beneficial for congestive heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia and chronic pain, depression and anxiety. Some research suggests that the practice of tai chi can enhance the immune system, increase flexibility and improve balance. It is also beneficial for increasing joints movement in people with severe osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The practice of tai chi seems to be a complete health program … and it may also improve longevity.
Almost universally, the studies also show two things. First, they show that even simple, basic practice of the movements of Tai Chi have positive therapeutic or maybe even curative effects on most diseases and health conditions. Second, studies show that this practice has no known side effects or contraindications—basically, it is safe for anyone and everyone.
Interestingly, when we look at specific studies for specific diseases, we see that Tai Chi consistently emerges as superior or as good as all other forms of non-pharmaceutical treatments. And because Tai Chi has no side effects, it may be appropriate as an important complement—or, in some cases, a replacement—for drug therapy.
This scientific evidence also shows that Tai Chi is one of the most effective intervention for health and wellness and complements standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age. The main benefits of Tai Chi its energizing, calming, grounding, centering and enjoyable aspects. Findings further pointed to additional benefits incurred in the learning process of Tai Chi movements, such as patience, acceptance of things as they are, and an increase in physical, mental, and spiritual awareness.
Research demonstrates that practicing Tai Chi specifically helps to improve balance and stability in older people and in those with Parkinson’s disease, reduce back and neck pain and pain from knee osteoarthritis, and improve the immune system and improve the quality of life in people with heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.
Scientific evidence also shows the efficacy of Tai Chi exercise to improve cognitive ability and psychosocial well-being.
And lastly, Tai Chi is safe for older adults to perform and is unlikely to result in serious adverse events.
People practice Tai Chi for various health-related purposes, such as:
For benefits associated with low-impact, weight-bearing, aerobic exercise
To improve physical condition, muscle strength, coordination, and flexibility
To improve balance and decrease the risk of falls, especially in elderly people
To ease pain and stiffness—for example, from osteoarthritis and neck pain
To improve sleep
To improve cognition and memory
For overall wellness.
While Western medicine has developed some of the most amazing therapies and medical techniques and a pharmacy unmatched in the history of civilization, one has to marvel at a single protocol that really does seem to address every medical condition. That protocol is Tai Chi.
When it comes to evidence-based health benefits, few exercise modalities can compete with Tai Chi. On GMI’s “therapeutic actions” page, you’ll find studies supporting Tai Chi’s therapeutic benefit for at least 35 diseases, and the following functions:
Improvements in physical conditioning, muscle strength, coordination, flexibility and recovery
Reduced pain and stiffness and increased mobility for arthritis sufferers
Better sleep, improved moods, and better overall quality of life
Enhanced immune function and slowed aging processes
Reduced risk of falls and fractures, particularly among older adults
In September 2015, a meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine examined the effects of Tai Chi on four chronic health conditions: cancer, osteoarthritis, heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Based on review of 33 studies, researchers concluded Tai Chi provided at least some benefit for all of these conditions, including strength, balance and posture—and did so without side effects. Most of the studies involved one-hour Tai Chi sessions done two or three times per week, over the course of 12 weeks.
Tai Chi positively impacted upper limb functional mobility in patients with breast cancer, and reduced symptoms among fibromyalgia sufferers, improving their quality of life. Several studies suggest Tai Chi can improve sleep quality as well.
It turns out that this mind-body practice is also excellent for your bones. Tai Chi appears to increase bone mineral density and reduce bone loss/resorbtion in postmenopausal women and breast cancer survivors. In a Tufts University study, one hour of Tai Chi twice a week for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved mood and physical functioning more than standard stretching exercises among people with severe knee osteoarthritis. In a Korean study, Tai Chi significantly improved flexibility and slowed the disease process for ankylosing spondylitis, a painful and debilitating form of spinal arthritis.
If you are practicing Tai Chi mainly for its value as an exercise you may not need to know its history or the research behind the effectiveness of Tai Chi as a healing art.
One of the benefits of Tai Chi is that it is non-competitive, non-aggressive and a self-paced program that doesn’t require physical strength, agility or flexibility to begin. Participants gain strength and flexibility through their practice.
The most basic reason for undertaking the practice of Tai Chi is simply to improve the quality and flow of your body fluids and your energy (Chi) which will increase your sense of well-being and health. This and many other benefits come about from adhering to the proper application of the principles that govern the movement within the practice of Tai Chi.
Although Tai Chi does not cure illnesses it does allow the body to cure itself. If the imbalances in Chi are identified and addressed early then the disease/illness is less likely to occur.