- Tai Chi Chuan
- Tai Ji
- Tai Chi Quan
For Patients & Caregivers
Tai Chi exercises are effective in relieving pain, improving flexibility, strength, and sleep quality, and reducing fatigue, stress, and the risk of falls in some patients.
Tai Chi combines body movements, meditation and breathing exercises to improve health and well-being. The movements are designed to express the yin and yang components, the basic elements of Chinese medicine in a balanced form. Practitioners believe that disease results when the flow of Qi (internal energy) is blocked and when there is disharmony between the yin and yang forces. Based on traditional Chinese medicine theory, tai chi exercises are thought to result in balancing these forces and promoting the flow of Qi to improve health.
Tai chi practice improves physical functioning in many ways, including improved strength, stamina, muscle tone, agility, flexibility, and sleep quality. Tai chi can also help to reduce stress, pain, and risk of falls, slow bone loss and reduce high blood pressure. The coordinated breathing used in tai chi also helps to improve respiratory function. In turn, all of these benefits improve quality of life, and many of these benefits extend or overlap across various populations such as the frail and elderly, postmenopausal women, and patients with heart disease, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, or cancer. Tai chi can be practiced by people of all age groups as the movements are gentle with minimal stress on the body.
Several studies show that tai chi improves balance which may also help to reduce the risk of falls.
A clinical trial found that a combination tai chi/qigong program reduced fatigue in breast cancer patients.
This use is supported by clinical trials.
- Physical Functioning
Several studies show that tai chi can improve muscle strength, flexibility, stamina, and stable posture in a variety of populations including cancer patients.
For Healthcare Professionals
Tai Chi is an exercise program that uses a sequence of precise body movements, meditation, and synchronized breathing to improve health and well-being. Practitioners believe that disease results when the flow of Qi (internal energy) is blocked and when there is disharmony between the yin and yang forces. Based on traditional Chinese medicine theory, Tai chi exercises are thought to result in balancing these forces and promoting the flow of Qi to improve health. Like most moderate physical activities, tai chi can improve stamina, muscle tone, agility, and flexibility. The coordinated practice of breathing with the exercises may serve a meditative function to reduce stress.
Reviews of clinical trials show that tai chi practice has many benefits including alleviation of pain, and improved flexibility and strength (1)(2). Clinical studies in women showed that tai chi is effective in slowing bone loss (3), reduces multiple fracture-related risks (4), and improves physical functioning (5). Tai chi may improve range of motion in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (6), but more evidence is needed (7). Tai chi improves aerobic capacity in sedentary adults (2), respiratory function in patients with COPD (8) and quality-of-life (QoL) in patients with chronic heart failure (9)(10), reduces hypertension and lipid profile in hypertensive individuals (11), and improves sleep (12) and physical function (13) in elderly individuals. Patients with fibromyalgia reported significant improvements in symptom management and QoL following a tai chi exercise program (14)(15). In patients with Parkinson’s disease (16) and multiple sclerosis (17), tai chi can improve balance and reduce risk of falls. A combination intervention of tai chi, resistance training and diet intervention found significant improvements in measures of mobility in obese older women (18).
Preliminary data suggest that tai chi improves QoL (19)(20) and neuropsychological functioning (21) in cancer survivors. Combination qigong/tai chi exercise programs improved fatigue, depression and sleep dysfunction in breast cancer survivors (22), and a condensed tai chi program was found to be a feasible and acceptable modality for senior cancer survivors (23).
Improved postural control and walking ability are due to specific features that characterize the tai chi protocol, in which weight shifting and ankle sway move one’s center of gravity toward the limits of stability (16). Alternating narrow and wide stances continually change the base of support, increase support-leg standing and trailing-leg swing time, and encourage rotation of the torso with an upright posture. Forward heel-to-toe and backward toe-to-heel steps strengthen dorsiflexion and plantar flexion, respectively. Changes in measures of mobility are attributed to the improved flexibility and balance produced with regular tai chi practice (18), and are also the mechanisms by which tai chi helps to prevent falls (24). Tai chi particularly appears to alleviate bradykinetic movements associated with Parkinson’s disease by improving gait characteristics such as maximum excursion while reducing deviation in movement (eg, reaching forward to take objects from a cabinet; transitioning from a seated-to-standing and standing-to-seated positions), and markedly increasing gait velocity and stride length (16).
Several studies evaluating biomarker changes with tai chi indicate that the physical aspects of this exercise mediate reductions in both decreased fat mass and IL-2 levels along with increased fat-free mass and IL-6, while the meditative component may also contribute to antiinflammatory effects (25). Declining proinflammatory cytokine IL-2 levels further result in increasing bone formation and metabolism levels (26). Other anti-inflammatory effects include increased superoxide dismutase activity with reduced IL-1β (27). Tai chi may also improve health-related QoL by regulating other inflammatory responses and biomarkers (20).