Tai chi is a noncompetitive martial art known for its health benefits, such as improving balance and managing pain. It is an ancient Chinese tradition that combines gentle physical exercise and stretching with mindfulness.
Research has produced mixed results but appears to show that tai chi
People generally regard it as safe for individuals of all ages as it does not put too much stress on the muscles and joints.
This article explores the documented evidence for the benefits of tai chi.
Various research suggests tai chi offers a range of benefits for people with and without chronic conditions. These benefits include:
Tai chi showed some potential benefits for helping prevent trips and falls in older adults across a range of studies.
A 2012 review looked at 159 randomized controlled trials of various types of practices to prevent falls in older adults.
The studies involved more than 79,193 people, with the authors concluding that tai chi could reduce the risk of falling.
Another article notes that the activity is a
The evidence from these studies suggests that tai chi might help support many aspects of balance and posture.
To discover more evidence-based information and resources for healthy aging, visit our dedicated hub.
However, the review authors recommended further, larger-scale trials to support their conclusions, as the studies they examined had flaws and potential biases.
A 2015 review of 54 studies involving 3,913 participants provided moderate-quality evidence that tai chi could help improve physical function in those with knee osteoarthritis. While tai chi only formed the basis of five of the studies, the evidence that exercise helped provide short-term relief for knee osteoarthritis was strong.
Tai chi also seems to have some evidence supporting its use to help manage fibromyalgia.
Chronic heart failure
Some practitioners of tai chi praise it as an effective management tool for people with chronic heart failure. However, current evidence does not support this conclusion. Any studies showing an improvement indicate that the findings were insignificant.
A 2014 review of 13 small trials also showed inconclusive evidence to support the activity as a preventative measure against cardiovascular disease.
Mental health and cognitive function
Tai chi is a tranquil, fluid martial art that has associations with mindfulness and psychological well-being.
However, the evidence is thin on the ground for the mental health benefits of the activity. Some studies suggest a link, but a large
Research looking at the effect of tai chi on cognitive function yielded more promising results.
While tai chi is a gentle, low-impact activity, people should seek medical advice before starting any form of exercise. This especially applies to those who are:
There are five different styles of tai chi, dating from different periods in history. Each has a unique set of methods and principles, lineage, and date of origin.
- Chen style, which began sometime between 1528 and 1587
- Yang style, which began sometime between 1799 and 1872
- Wu or Wu Hao style, which began sometime between 1812 and 1880
- Wu style, which began sometime between 1870 and 1942
- Sun style, which began sometime between 1861 and 1932
Some of these forms of tai chi lean towards health, while others stress competition or self-defense.
People considering a tai chi course should speak to an experienced instructor about which style they practice and whether it will offer the expected benefits.
The true origins of tai chi remain a mystery, but the concepts are rooted in Chinese history, Taoism, and Confucianism.
Zhang Sanfeng, a 12th-century Taoist monk, is believed to be the founder of tai chi. Some stories claim that Zhang Sanfeng left his monastery to become a hermit, after which he created a form of fighting based on softness.
Tai chi is a low-impact, noncompetitive martial art that is known for its potential health benefits.
Researchers have conducted many studies on this martial art to understand its health benefits.
Some studies show tai chi can improve brain function, lower stress and depression, and reduce chronic pain.
However, scientists must conduct further studies to confirm its benefits.
People who wish to start practicing tai chi should consult their doctor first if possible.