Health Benefits of Tai Chi

Tai Chi and Aging

A video from Harvard University explores how tai chi can affect health.
Lewis Lipsitz, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School discusses a recent study of the effects of tai chi on balance and mobility.
Participants comment on their experience.
Link here to see the video. (Posted by Harvard, May 15, 2017)


Tai Chi as a Complementary Therapy

The Canadian Cancer Society considers tai chi a complementary therapy to help with cancer surgery recovery.
From its website:
Tai chi does not treat the cancer itself… The purpose of a complementary therapy is to help improve your overall health and well-being. These therapies help you cope physically and emotionally with conventional cancer treatments.
Research suggests that tai chi can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, ease pain and stiffness and improve sleep. Small studies have shown that regular tai chi may help with depression and improve self-esteem. These studies have also suggested that regular practice of tai chi can improve quality of life.
Very small studies have shown that tai chi exercises may help women with breast cancer. These exercises may help improve shoulder movement after surgery and temporarily reduce lymphedema.
With regular practice, tai chi improves flexibility, strength, balance and fitness.

Read more here


Consider Tai Chi for Back Pain

From the article: New guidelines released by the American College of Physicians suggest that an ancient Chinese martial art can be an effective defense against back pain.
This March 2017 article in Consumer Report includes the results of a U.S. survey of 3,500 back pain sufferers, personal accounts, and comments by Benjamin Kligler, M.D., national director of the Integrative Health Coordinating Center at the Veteran’s Health Administration.
A quote from Dr. Kliger:
Tai chi helps with back pain in several ways. It strengthens the muscles in your abdomen and pelvic area that are crucial to supporting the lower back; it improves your balance and flexibility; and it makes you more aware of your posture when you sit, stand, and walk.
See the full article here


A Clinical Review of Studies about Tai Chi and Health

Canadian Family Physician published a 10-page Clinical Review of  Studies called: Health benefits of tai chi: What is the evidence? by Patricia Huston MD CCFP MPH and Bruce McFarlane MD CCFP FCFP. (Vol 62: November 2016)

This excerpt is a paragraph summarizing the results of the review.

Main message
During the past 45 years more than 500 trials and 120 systematic reviews have been published on the health benefits of tai chi.
Systematic reviews of tai chi for specific conditions indicate excellent evidence of benefit for preventing falls, osteoarthritis, Parkinson disease, rehabilitation for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and improving cognitive capacity in older adults.
There is good evidence of benefit for depression, cardiac and stroke rehabilitation, and dementia.
There is fair evidence of benefit for improving quality of life for cancer patients, fibromyalgia, hypertension, and osteoporosis.
Current evidence indicates no direct benefit for diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or chronic heart failure.
Systematic reviews of general health and fitness benefits show excellent evidence of benefit for improving balance and aerobic capacity in those with poor fitness.
There is good evidence for increased strength in the lower limbs.
There is fair evidence for increased well-being and improved sleep.
There were no studies that found tai chi worsened a condition.
A recent systematic review on the safety of tai chi found adverse events were typically minor and primarily musculoskeletal; no intervention-related serious adverse events have been reported.

Read or download the full article here.

Tai chi improves balance and motor control in Parkinson’s disease

This excerpt is from a post by Peter Wayne, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, in the Harvard Health Blog.

…I read with excitement and interest a report in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that tai chi may improve balance and prevent falls among people with Parkinson’s disease.

This degenerative condition can cause many vexing problems. These range from tremors and stiffness to a slowing or freezing of movement, sleep problems, anxiety, and more. Parkinson’s disease may also disrupt balance, which can lead to frightening and damaging falls.

A team from the Oregon Research Institute recruited 195 men and women with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease. They were randomly assigned to twice-weekly sessions of either tai chi, strength-building exercises, or stretching. After six months, those who did tai chi were stronger and had much better balance than those in the other two groups. In fact, their balance was about two times better than those in the resistance-training group and four times better than those in the stretching group. The tai chi group also had significantly fewer falls, and slower rates of decline in overall motor control. In addition, tai chi was safe, with little risk of Parkinson’s disease patients coming to harm.
Full Article

Research shows that Tai Chi can be especially beneficial as we age.

Improved Balance
On its web page discussing the danger of falls for seniors and how to prevent them, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends tai chi.
What You Can Do to Prevent Falls.
Do exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance. Tai Chi is a good example of this kind of exercise.

Tai Chi for Osteoarthritis
This exceprt is from an article in the Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School.

Tai chi helps improve physical strength and mobility and promotes a sense of well-being.
A study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism found that participants with knee osteoarthritis who practiced tai chi twice a week had less pain and better physical function compared with study participants enrolled in a wellness education and stretching program.
The tai chi class lasted 12 weeks, but the improvements were sustained a year later.
These participants also reported less depression and greater well-being.

Full Article