Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi

The benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong can be found here.

When practicing Tai chi regularly, workout routine will provide several physical and mental benefits. For example relieve Stress and Improve your Health.

Highly recommended by many doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths and health professionals.

"Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese mind-body exercise that enhances balance, strength, flexibility and self-efficacy, and reduces pain, depression and anxiety in diverse patient populations with chronic conditions (9). As a complementary mind-body approach, Tai Chi may be an especially applicable treatment for older adults with knee OA. The physical component provides exercise consistent with current recommendations for Osteoarthritis- OA (range of motion, flexibility, muscle conditioning and aerobic cardiovascular exercise) (10); the mental component could address the chronic pain state through effects on psychological well-being, life satisfaction, and perceptions of health (11).

Although Tai Chi has spread worldwide over the past 2 decades, scientific evidence to support its efficacy for knee OA has been inconclusive (12). Some benefits were shown in one large-scale randomized, controlled trial (RCT), but interpretation of its results was limited by methodological issues including enrollment of individuals with hip as well as knee OA, absence of radiographic confirmation, short follow-up and poor adherence (13). **ncbi

Today, Tai Chi is possibly the best exercise for everyone and there is more to Tai Chi than meets the eye. Research studies from all over the world are revealing some benefits that are unexpected, except to those who have been practicing Tai Chi.

CANCER COUNCIL, NEW SOUTH WALES The Cancer Council in New South Wales, (a ramification of the australian council), provides resources, information, and support among cancer patients and relatives. They have a very informative PDF file called Understanding Complementary Therapies, and mention Tai chi and Qigong
- Clinical studies suggest that qi gong improves quality of life and reduces fatigue, pain and anxiety. Anecdotal evidence shows that it helps to improve general fitness.
- Studies have shown that tai chi improves quality of life, balance, agility, flexibility and muscle tone in cancer survivors. It can also help reduce anxiety, depression and stress.

It is now known that Tai Chi has health benefits in being able to treat or at least reduce the severity of many common chronic diseases, including: (click on the words for reading more). Performing movements of this type will promote:

Again, the slow movements and low impact of tai chi allow all ages to participate.

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Falls No matter what forms of tai chi, if specific tai chi principles are incorporated into tai chi practice, the result will be better balance and reduced falls. 
Tai Chi has been found to reduce falls in older adults in large studies where the inherently low rate of falls in this population could be ascertained. In the first large study of community-living older adults, 15 weeks of Tai Chi reduced the risk of repeat falls by 47% but not on the incidence of new falls (Wolf et al., 1996). Although the relative risk for falls was not significant in a transitionally frail older adults (N=291), the fall rate was 47.6% in the Tai Chi group and 60.3% in the wellness education group (Wolf et al., 2003). In persons with Parkinson’s disease, the incidence of falls was significantly lower for Tai Chi than resistance exercise (Li et al., 2012). In a larger randomized clinical trial (Voukelatos, Cumming, Lord & Rissel, 2007), older adults (N=710) completed a 16 weeks of weekly Tai Chi. Twenty-two Tai Chi instructors from the community provided classes consistent with the styles that they normally taught. Participants paid a small amount for the sessions. At 16 weeks, the unadjusted and adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) for one or more falls approached significance (p<0.07) but were significant for two or more falls (HR=0.33 and 0.25, respectively). At 24 weeks, the HRs were significant for one or more falls (HR=0.67 and 0.66, respectively) and for two or more falls (HR=0.33 and 0.27, respectively).

Muscle strength. Tai chi can improve both lower-body strength and upper-body strength. When practiced regularly, tai chi can be comparable to resistance training and brisk walking.

Although you aren't working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in tai chi strengthens your upper body. Tai chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.

Flexibility. Tai chi can boost upper- and lower-body flexibility as well as strength.

Balance. Tai chi improves balance and, according to some studies, reduces falls. Proprioception — the ability to sense the position of one's body in space — declines with age. Tai chi helps train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments. Tai chi also improves muscle strength and flexibility, which makes it easier to recover from a stumble. Fear of falling can make you more likely to fall; some studies have found that tai chi training helps reduce that fear.

Aerobic conditioning. Depending on the speed and size of the movements, tai chi can provide some aerobic benefits. If your clinician advises a more intense cardio workout with a higher heart rate than tai chi can offer, you may need something more aerobic as well.

Glucose Metabolism

Exercise has been found to improve diabetes control. Tai Chi may be a beneficial alternative, but research findings have been inconsistent. In randomized clinical trials, no significant changes in glucose control were found after 16 weeks of a combined form of Sun and Yang styles (Tsang Hui-Chan, 2008), 12 months of Yang-style (Thomas et al., 2005) or Sun style (Song, Ahn, Roberts, Lee, Ahn, 2009).

In other randomized studies, glucose control significantly improved with Tai Chi. In a case–control study of 12 weeks Chen-style, HbA1c (a marker of diabetes control) was significantly lower in patients with type 2 diabetes compared to age-matched controls (Yeh et al., 2009a). In women with type 2 diabetes, Yang-style at a moderate aerobic intensity [50–85% maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max)] significantly improved glucose control after 14 weeks of five sessions per week (Zhang & Fu, 2008). Hui and associates (2009) found similar changes in blood glucose of sedentary middle-aged men after 12 weeks of Yang-style or walking exercise. In obese patients with type 2 diabetes, beneficial decreases in HbA1c were found after 12 weeks of Chen style five times per week (from 8.9% to 8.3%) and walking (from 8.8% to 8.5%) (Chen et al., 2010).

Stress, Anxiety, and Other Emotions.

Several studies have found that Tai Chi increases psychological health. Jin (1992) randomly assigned subjects to four treatment groups: Tai Chi, brisk walking, meditation, and neutral reading. State anxiety was decreased more in the Tai Chi and brisk walking groups than the other two groups. Compared to a stretching and wellness education, depression among community-dwelling adults with rheumatoid arthritis was significantly lower in the group performing Yang-style one hour twice-weekly for 12 weeks (Wang et al., 2005). When people with traumatic brain injury completed 6-weeks of Chen-style, sadness, confusion, anger, tension and fear significantly decreased, and energy and happiness increased (Gemmell & Leathem, 2006). Similarly, in persons with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), groups engaged in 8 weeks of either Tai Chi or aerobic exercise had better mood states than in the control group (Galantino et al., 2005). A recent meta-analysis described effect sizes (ES) of one hour to one year Tai Chi on psychological well-being in community-dwelling healthy participants and those with chronic conditions (Wang et al., 2010). Beneficial effects of Tai Chi included reductions in stress (ES=0.66), anxiety (ES=0.66), and depression (ES=0.56), and increased mood (ES=0.45).

Quality of Life

Quality of life (QOL) is derived from the complex process of a person’s perceived physical health, psychological state, personal beliefs, social relationships, and relevant features of the external environment. Several randomized studies involving diverse populations of healthy chronically ill adults have consistently found that Tai Chi improves QOL. Irwin and associates (2003) reported that the role-physical and physical functioning components of QOL [36-item Short Form questionnaire (SF-36)] were better in healthy older adults after completing 15 weeks of Tai Chi compared with the wait-listed control group. In randomized clinical trials in persons with heart failure, QOL was improved after 12 weeks of Yang-style performed for one hour twice a week as compared with those receiving usual care (Yeh et al., 2004, 2008, 2011). Galantino and associates (2005) also reported that health-related QOL of persons with AIDS was significantly greater after 8 weeks of Tai Chi and aerobic exercise than in controls. Community-dwelling persons with lower-extremity osteoarthritis reported improved QOL (WOMAC) after one hour Yang-style twice weekly for 12 weeks compared to those receiving usual care (Hartman et al., 2000). In persons with rheumatoid arthritis, the vitality components of QOL (SF-36) were significantly higher with 12 weeks of twice weekly Yang-style when compared with wellness education (Wang et al., 2005). Lee and associates (2007) studied residents of a care facility in Hong Kong and reported that health-related QOL improved more after 26 weeks of Tai Chi than the control group who continued their usual daily activities. In a randomized trial involving breast cancer survivors, Mustian and colleagues (2004) also found significant improvements in health-related QOL after 12 weeks of 60 minutes Yang-style Tai Chi and Chi Kung three times a week compared to those who received psychosocial support.


Improved sleep has also been reported following Tai Chi, which could be associated with decreases in stress and anxiety induced by this exercise (Li et al., 2004; Wall, 2005). Using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, Li and associates (2004) found improvements in sleep quality, sleep efficiency, and sleep disturbances were better for the participants who performed Yang-style three times per week for 24 weeks than for those engaged in low-impact exercise. Older adults with moderate sleep complaints involved in 25 weeks of Tai Chi had greater sleep quality, efficiency, and duration, and less sleep disturbance than those who received health education (Irwin, Olmstead & Motivala, 2008). Sleep stability was also improved following Tai Chi in patients with heart failure compared with usual care (Yeh, Wayne, & Phillips, 2008). The Tai Chi group had greater high-frequency cardiopulmonary coupling and lower low-frequency coupling on sleep spectrograms.

Immune Function

A few randomized clinical studies reveal Tai-Chi-induced immune-related responses. Combining vaccination with Tai Chi three times a week for 25 weeks was significantly more effective at increasing varicella zoster virus cell-mediated immunity in healthy older adults than was vaccine alone (Irwin, Olmstead Oxman, 2007). Based on a psychoneuroimmunology paradigm, McCain and associates (2008) explored 10 weeks of alternative stress-management interventions on immune function in subjects with HIV. The weekly 90-minute sessions of Tai Chi and psychosocial interventions (spiritual and cognitive-behavioral relaxation) significantly enhanced immune function (lymphocyte proliferation counts). Because other indicators for stress management including salivary cortisol were not significantly changed by the interventions, the mechanism underlying this enhanced immune function has yet to be established (McCain et al., 2008). Immune function and inflammation are closely related and are often assessed using biomarkers, such as interleukin-6 (IL-6) or C-reactive protein (Jahnke et al., 2010). Irwin and Olmstead (2011) found that older adults performing Tai Chi for 16 weeks had reduced IL-6, while it remained high among those who had received health education. A psychoneuroimmunological mechanism potentially underlies the effects of Tai Chi because changes in depression and IL-6, were significantly correlated. In a randomized clinical trial, obese patients with type 2 diabetes engaged in Chen-style three times per week for 12 weeks experienced significantly decreased inflammation (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein) compared to the conventional-exercise group (Chen et al., 2010).

Mechanisms Underlying the Effects of Tai Chi

Physical Function

Tai Chi is more challenging to postural control than normal walking. Compared to normal gait, Tai Chi movements involve a longer-duration single-leg stance (Wu et al., 2004) but a greater proportion of time in double-stance support (Hong, Mao Li, 2008; Wu et al., 2002). The duration of the transition from one stance to another is also longer for Tai Chi movements. The greater postural control and shorter transitions required for Tai Chi may account for the improvement in postural stability found in many studies. The characteristics of Tai Chi may also explain its muscle-strengthening effects. During Tai Chi, the muscles responsible for knee flexion and extension, ankle dorsal and plantar flexion, and hip flexors and abductors are coactivated longer than during normal walking and involve greater proportions of alternating concentric and eccentric contractions (Wu, Liu, Hitt & Millon, 2004). Moderate-to-large correlations between the strength of the knee extensors and duration of muscle activation of the knee extensors and ankle dorsal flexors were found during Tai Chi gait (Wu et al., 2004) and movements (Chan et al., 2003; Wu, 2008) but not normal walking. In summary, Tai Chi movements are more challenging than normal walking and require sustained motor control of the muscles of the lower extremities (Wu et al., 2004; Wu, 2008). The cumulative effects of performing Tai Chi may thus increase the strength of these muscles. Although Tai Chi does not involve training for the specific skills required for activities of daily living, the characteristics of this exercise appear to mimic neurological adaptations that are transferable to the performance of these activities (Hong Li, 2007). The motor patterns required for Tai Chi are also essential for mobility and many instrumental activities of daily living (Fontana, Colella, Wilson & Baas, 2000; Schneider Leung, 1991). Overall, people who learn Tai Chi ultimately develop a larger repertoire of postural and motor responses that are required for a wide variety of the activities of daily living and challenging environmental conditions.

Cardiovascular Functioning

The potential mediating mechanism underlying the blood-pressure-lowering effect of Tai Chi could be increased vagal stimulation from abdominal (Dantian) breathing (Thornton, 2008). Further studies are required to confirm other potential physiological mediators of Tai Chi on hypertension. Tai Chi consists of moderate intensity endurance and resistance exercise, which is equivalent to the intensity of aerobic exercise recommended for patients with type 2 diabetes (Colberg et al., 2010). The more vigorous, moderate-intensity forms of Tai Chi, such as the Yang and Chen, require more than 4 metabolic equivalents (METs corresponding to 58% of VO2max) that may be more beneficial for cardiovascular functioning (Zhuo, Shephard, Plyley, & Davis, 1984) than would the 2.7–3.0 METs for Sun style or a combination of Sun and Yang styles (K. Y. Lee, Jones, Hui-Chan, & Tsang, 2011).

Psychological Functioning

The psychological benefits of Tai Chi may be attributed to its capacity to endow periods of great calm and mental tranquility, which are based mainly on the mind–body connection through relaxation and meditation components of the exercise (Jimenez, Melendez, & Albers, 2012). Further studies are required to examine whether the psychological benefits of Tai Chi are related to its Qigong component.

Immune Function

The mechanisms underlying the association between Tai Chi and immune function are unclear. Based on a psychoneuroimmunology paradigm, the psychological health effects due to the meditation or Qigong components of Tai Chi as a mind–body exercise may explain the improvement in immune function (Jahnke et al., 2010). Refer