Articles About the Health Benefits of Tai Chi Chuan


Click on a direct link to one of the follow articles:


The Application of Tai Chi to Stroke Rehabilitation

Tai Chi May Help the Elderly Get a Good Night's Sleep

Breast Cancer Survivors Show Significant Improvements from Tai Chi

Studies Show Tai Chi Helps Fight Against Type-2 Diabetes

U.S. News & World Report: For Better Balance, Tai Chi Beats Yoga

Tai Chi Good for Asthmatic Children's Lungs

Tai Chi Can Improve Eye-hand Coordination of Elderly People

A Pilot Study Investigating Stress Management via Tai Chi Training

Tai Chi Training Safe and Effective for Patients with Moderate Heart Failure

Picking the Right Exercise Mode for Functional Fitness of Older Adults

Study Found Tai Chi and Other Therapies Good for Chronic Pain

Tai Chi and Ankylosing Spondylitis

Start Doing Tai Chi Now, You May Be Better Protected from Flu in the Winter

After Some Golfers Discovered Tai Chi...


The Application of Tai Chi to Stroke Rehabilitation

Balance is an essential component of successful movements associated with activities of daily living (e.g., walking, reaching, bending) as well as fall prevention, which is important for stroke survivors. Tai Chi likely facilitates improvements in balance through the development of proprioceptive awareness and kinesthetic sense. Proprioceptive awareness and kinesthetic sense are reported to diminish with age or following a stroke. Kinesthetic sense or the perception of movement is mediated by the body's proprioceptive mechanisms enabling it to receive stimuli from receptors originating in the muscles, tendons, and joints, through which these movements can be adjusted accurately for maintaining balance. Proprioceptive awareness and kinesthetic sense are important for coordinated movements, body posture, and motor learning (relearning), which are essential to stroke survivors for adequate neuromuscular functioning.

Constant weight shifting, trunk rotation, a changing base of support, and an elongated central axis around which all movements occur are fundamental to Tai Chi exercise. The slow, rhythmic movements of Tai Chi are linked together in a continuous sequence, while body weight is continually shifting from leg to leg without compromising balance or stability. Shifting body weight during Tai Chi to different positions (e.g., forward, backward, side-to-side) in a smooth and coordinated manner challenges the balance control system to maintain the center of mass within the base of support.

Repetitive demands of this balance control system occurs during the practice of Tai Chi and may help explain how Tai Chi facilitates better balance. Impaired proprioception in older adults makes it difficult for them to detect changes in their body position until it is too late for compensatory movements to prevent falls. In older adults with hemiparesis following a stroke, proprioception and kinesthetic sense is likely impaired further. During Tai Chi, each movement is scrutinized for correct body position and foot placement, important for performing Tai Chi safely without injury, while subjects learn or relearn proprioceptive awareness and kinesthetic sense. Continual practice of Tai Chi among older adults develops and strengthens proprioceptive awareness and kinesthetic sense and may also aid balance control in stroke survivors.

In addition, during performance of Tai Chi the knees are bent, which strengthens the quadriceps, knee extensor, and flexor muscle strength. Primary knee flexors are the hamstrings and gastrocnemius muscles, which are two-jointed muscles. The hamstrings cross the hip and knee joints, while the gastrocnemius cross the knee and ankle joints. During Tai Chi, bending the knee requires hip flexion and simultaneous dorsiflexion. Previous research among older adults has reported significant increases in lower body strength and flexibility following a Tai Chi intervention. Tai Chi likely facilitates improvements in both lower body strength and flexibility, further aiding in balance control.

Tai Chi exercise is often prescribed by Chinese doctors as a treatment for hypertension. The softness and low-impact nature of the movements without force or pressure are ideal for persons with hyper hypertension. The muscle relaxation created by Tai Chi is thought to foster a conditioned relaxation reflex in the blood vessels, resulting in lower blood pressure. This BP response is important for older adults, as they often experience age-associated declines in physiological functioning, and for stroke survivors. In addition, the relaxation response that occurs is further enhanced through the mindfulness and active relaxation during Tai Chi. Mindfulness and active relaxation during Tai Chi focuses on body position (e.g., correct foot placement) and how the body feels (e.g., shoulders relaxed). It involves being alert and calm at the same time, while leading to improvements in mood or mental outlook, an important aspect of care and rehabilitation among stroke survivors.



Tai Chi May Help the Elderly Get a Good Night's Sleep

Elderly tired of spending restless nights should learn Tai Chi for a good night's sleep, suggests a new study.
More than half of all older adults complain about having difficulties sleeping, however, researchers from University of California, Los Angeles have found that practicing Tai Chi can promotes sleep quality in older adults with moderate sleep complaints.

During the study, the team looked at 112 healthy adults between 59-86 years and randomly assigned to one of two groups for a 25-week period. The first group practiced 20 simple Tai Chi moves; the other participated in health education classes that included advice on stress management diet and sleep habits.

At the beginning of the study, participants were asked to rate their sleep based on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, a self-rated questionnaire that assesses sleep quality, duration and disturbances over a one-month time interval.
They found that the Tai Chi group showed improved sleep quality and a remission of clinical impairments, such as drowsiness during the day and inability to concentrate, compared with those receiving health education. The Tai Chi participants showed improvements in their own self-rating of sleep quality, sleep duration and sleep disturbance.

"Poor sleeping constitutes one of the most common difficulties facing older adults," said lead study author Dr. Michael Irwin, the Norman Cousins Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of the UCLA Cousins Centre for Psychoneuroimmunology.  Irwin noted that 58 percent of adults age 59 and older report having difficulty sleeping at least a few nights each week. However, sleep problems remain untreated in up to 85 percent of people. And for those who do seek help, the usual remedy is a sedative.

But sedatives can cause side effects, according to Irwin. "It's not uncommon for older adults to experience daytime confusion, drowsiness, falls and fractures, and adverse interactions with other medications they may be taking," he said.
Keeping in mind the physical limitations of the elderly, rigorous exercise might not be an option. Tai Chi's gentle, slow movements can be an attractive exercise option for the elderly population.

"It's a form of exercise virtually every elderly person can do, and this study provides more across-the-board evidence of its health benefits," said Irwin. The study will be published in the journal Sleep and is currently available in the journal's online edition.



After Practicing Tai Chi, Breast Cancer Survivors Show Significant Improvements


The latest issue of Swiss medical journal Medicine and Sport Science published a study about Tai Chi done by several researchers from University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. In this study, the researchers recruited women who completed treatment for breast cancer and randomly assigned them to receive either Tai Chi or psychosocial support therapy for 3 times a week over a 12-week period.

At the end of the study, the Tai Chi group demonstrated significant improvements in functional capacity, including aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and flexibility, as well as quality of life; the psychosocial support therapy group showed significant improvements only in flexibility, with declines in aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and quality of life.



Studies Show Tai Chi Helps Fight Against Type-2 Diabetes

Tai Chi can help curb symptoms of type 2 diabetes, say a pair of studies released by the British Journal of Sports Medicine in April. In separate experiments conducted in Australia and Taiwan, diabetes patients who performed tai chi for a few hours a week over a three-month period showed significant health improvement compared to control groups.

Type-2 diabetes occurs when the body fails to produce or process enough insulin, which play a critical role in converting glucose into energy. The disease, which afflicts some 250 million worldwide, can cause blindness, kidney failure, high blood pressure and heart disease. Other forms of moderate exercise have been shown to help keep the disease in check, the researchers point out. But "these Chinese exercises may be easier to learn than gym-based exercises and do not require any complicated or expensive equipment," conclude the University of Queensland team, led by Wendy Brown.

The worldwide diabetes epidemic is directly linked to a sedentary lifestyle and obesity, but heart-pounding exertion is not necessarily good either, say the studies. Strenuous physical activity depresses the immune system response, they say, while moderate exercise seems to have the opposite effect.

In the immune system, helper T cells prompt stimulus of other immune system cells, altering the immune response. They respond to specific antigens, producing interleukins and other important signaling chemicals. As a result, they are essential for the cell mediated immune response.

In the study conducted in Taiwan, the investigators sought to analyze the impact of a 12 week Tai Chi Chuan exercise program on helper T cell activity in 30 patients with type 2 diabetes, and contrast this with 30 healthy people of the same age. After 12 weeks in the exercise program, the levels of glycated hemoglobin levels fell significantly, from 7.59% to 7.16% in diabetic patients, a significant difference. Interleukin-12, which boosts the immune response, increased in level; interleukin-4, which lessens the immune response, declined. In conjunction, T cell activity also significantly increased.

According to these responses, it is possible that Tai Chi can prompt a declination in blood glucose levels, perhaps by improving blood glucose metabolism, prompting a decrease in the inflammatory response. In an alternative explanation also suggested by the authors, the exercise may boost levels of fitness along with a feeling of well being -- this in turn may boost the health of the immune system.

In the Australian study, investigators focused on adults with metabolic syndrome. This is a group of symptoms including hypertension and high blood glucose which are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A 12 week program of Tai Chi and Qigong was administered to 13 patients with metabolic syndrome for up to 1.5 hours up to 3 times a week, while being encouraged to perform the exercises outside of the classes.

At the end of 12 weeks, they had lost an average of 3 kg in weight and had dropped waist size by almost 3 cm. In addition, the blood pressures of the subjects fell significantly more than exercise alone can account for, according to the authors. Insulin resistance also fell, indicating a decreased predisposition for type 2 diabetes. Participants additionally claimed to sleep better, have more energy, feel less pain, and have fewer cravings for food while participating in the program.

Notably, three patients no longer met the criteria for metabolic syndrome after this test.



U.S. News & World Report: For Better Balance, Tai Chi Beats Yoga

On April 8, 2008, U.S. News & World Report published an article called "For Better Balance, Pilates and Tai Chi Beat Yoga".

Started with introducing a preliminary study in how Yoga helps fending off falls, the article quickly states: "Some experts, though, say for better balance and stability while walking, Tai chi and Pilates are superior".

The article cited the co-director of the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence, which is based at University of Southern California, to explain the point: "while Yoga emphasizes static poses, which can be helpful for balance when standing still, Tai Chi and Pilates are more effective at improving motor control and coordination for walking—when most falls occur."

Click here to read the full article



Tai Chi Good for Asthmatic Children's Lungs


Tai Chi has been thought to improve cardiopulmonary function in patients with chronic disease. A new study reveals Tai Chi can improve asthmatic children's pulmonary function.

In this study conducted in Taiwan, 30 asthmatic children were enrolled, with 15 of them participating in a 12-week Tai Chi program and the remaining 15 constituting the control group. Prior to study participation, the pulmonary function of all enrolled children was assessed in 3 parameters: at rest, after exercise, and after exercise plus iced water. A 3-day symptoms questionnaire was also completed and a score obtained after each pulmonary function test.

Before the study started, there were no significant differences between the two groups in baseline pulmonary function and severity of asthmatic symptoms in the 3 assessment parameters: at rest, after exercise, or after exercise plus iced water. However, after the 12-week program, children in the Tai Chi group had a significant improvement in baseline pulmonary function compared to the control group. In the first 2 parameters, at rest and after exercise, there were no significant differences in post-training symptom scores between the two groups. But in the third parameter, under the stronger challenge of exercise plus iced water, children in the Tai Chi group had milder symptoms than those in the control group.

Based on the above results, the researchers came to the conclusion that Tai Chi can improve the pulmonary function of asthmatic children. However, they caution that long-term follow-up is required to determine the impact of Tai Chi on the severity of asthmatic symptoms.

This study is published by Journal of microbiology, immunology, and infection in February 2008.



Tai Chi Can Improve Eye-hand Coordination of Elderly People


Some researchers from Chang Gung Memorial Hospital of Taiwan recently conducted a study to evaluate the effect of motor control from Tai Chi on eye-hand coordination in the older adults.

There were two groups of subjects in this study. One is the Tai Chi group consisting of 22 people who had been practic ing Tai Chi regularly for more than 3 years. The other group, the control group, had 20 healthy and active elderly people. Subjects were asked to stroke target sensors in a test device with computer recording. There were three different target sensor sizes (1 cm, 1.5 cm and 2 cm in diameter) for different tests. For each target stroking, the following were recorded and calculated: start and end positions, duration of movement, pause time, peak velocity, and the time to reach peak velocity.

Compared to the control group, the Tai Chi group showed significantly better results in decrease of displacement, movement time, pause time, number of sub-movements, and better skew nesso coefficients. However, the difference in the peak velocity of the TCC and control groups did not reach statistical significance.

Based on these results, the researchers came to the conclusion that the elderly people in the Tai Chi group had better results on the eye-hand coordination test than their counterparts in the control group.

This study is published in the February issue of the journal of Taiwan Medical Association.



A Pilot Study Investigating Stress Management via Tai Chi Training


Stress can affect health. There is a growing need for the evaluation and application of professional stress management options. Mind/body medicine serves this goal by integrating self-care techniques into medicine and health care. Tai Chi (TC) can be classified as such a mind/body technique, potentially reducing stress and affecting physical as well as mental health parameters, which, however, has to be examined further.

Some German scientists conducted a prospective, longitudinal pilot study over 18 weeks for the evaluation of subjective and objective clinical effects of a Yang style Tai Chi intervention in young adults (beginners) by measuring physiological (blood pressure, heart rate, saliva cortisol) and psychological (SF-36, perceived stress, significant events) parameters.

At the end of the study, the researchers found significant reductions of saliva cortisol, which seems to be an indicator of general stress reduction. A significant decrease in perceived mental stress proved even highly significant in the follow-up, whereas physical stress perception declined to a much lesser degree. Significant improvements were also detected for the SF-36 dimensions general health perception, social functioning, vitality, and mental health/psychological well-being. Thus, the summarized mental health measures all clearly improved, pointing towards a predominantly psychological impact of Tai Chi.

The researchers came to the conclusion that the subjects who participated in the study had increase in their health and decrease in stress (objectively and subjectively) during Tai Chi practice. They suggest that future studies should confirm this observation by rigorous methodology and by further combining physical and psychological measurements with basic research, thereby also gaining knowledge of autoregulation and molecular physiology that possibly underlies mind/body medicine.

This study is published in the November 2007 issue of the journal Medical Science Monitor.



Tai Chi Training Safe and Effective for Patients with Moderate Heart Failure


In the November issue of Postgraduate Medical Journal, a group of researchers from Royal Hallamshire Hospital of UK reported a study they conducted to evaluate the effect of Tai Chi on exercise tolerance in patients with moderate heart failure.

Fifty-two patients of the Cardiology Department at Royal Hallamshire Hospital participated in this study. They all have chronic heart failure. They were randomly assigned to one of the two groups: one group practiced Tai Chi Chuan twice a week for 16 weeks, and the other group accepted standard medical care without exercise rehabilitation.

The results of the study show that objective measures of exercise tolerance did not improve significantly with Tai Chi, but compared with those patients in the control group, patients having Tai Chi exercise had an improvement both in symptom scores of heart failure measured by the Minnesota Living with Heart Failure Questionnaire and in depression scores measured by the SCL-90-R questionnaire.

Based on the results, the researchers came to the conclusion: in patients with chronic heart failure, 16 weeks of Tai Chi training was safe, with no adverse exercise related problems. It was enjoyed by all taking part and led to significant improvements in symptoms and quality of life.



Picking the Right Exercise Mode for Functional Fitness of Older Adults


Functional fitness is a form of exercising that focuses on building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions, not just in the settings of gym. Through functional exercise, you'll learn to train whole body movements, not isolated muscles (as with typical machine-driven gym workouts). Functional fitness has recently become a fitness buzzword.

Various exercise modes are available to improve Functional Fitness in older adults. However, information on the comparative capability of different exercise modes to improve Functional Fitness is insufficient.

Wichita State University of Kansas and Nagoya City University of Japan launched a collaborating effort to address this issue. They compared the effects of aerobic, resistance, flexibility, balance, and Tai Chi programs on Functional Fitness in Japanese older adults.

In their study, Functional Fitness was evaluated using a chair stand, arm curl, up and go, sit and reach, back scratch, functional reach, and 12-min walk. 113 older adults, aged from 67 to 79, volunteered for one of five exercise groups: aerobic, resistance, balance, flexibility, and Tai Chi, or they were assigned to the wait-list control group. Programs were performed for 12 weeks.

At the end of the study, only aerobic program showed improvement in cardio respiratory fitness. Resistance, balance and Tai Chi programs all showed improvements in upper- and lower-body strength and balance/agility. Resistance program elicited the greatest upper-body strength improvement, whereas Balance program produced the greatest improvement in lower-body strength. Improvements in balance/agility were similar across Resistance, balance and Tai Chi programs. Functional reach improved similarly in Aerobic, Resistance, and balance programs. There were no improvements in flexibility.

According to these researchers, such results suggest that a single mode with crossover effects could address multiple components of fitness. Therefore, a well-rounded exercise program may only need to consist of two types of exercise to improve the components of functional fitness. They recommend aerobic exercise should be one type, and the second type could be chosen from resistance program, balance program, and Tai Chi.

This study is published in the November issue of journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.



Study Found Tai Chi and Other Therapies Good for Chronic Pain


A recent review by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that some mind-body therapies is effective for chronic pain management.

Chronic non-malignant pain occurs in up to 50% of older adults. Researchers reviewed 20 clinical trials involving eight mind-body therapies for adults who suffered from chronic, non-malignant pain, to assess their feasibility, effectiveness in pain management and safety.

The findings are published in Volume 8 of the journal Pain Medicine.

The therapies reviewed included biofeedback (learning to control body functions) , progressive muscle relaxation (tensing and releasing muscles), meditation, guided imagery (visualization techniques), hypnosis, Tai Chi, qi gong, and yoga.

All eight treatments were found to be feasible for older adults, and no adverse events or safety concerns were reported. For Tai Chi in particular, the researchers found it proved to improve arthritis pain, joint pain and stiffness and reduce falls.

"The trials we reviewed indicated that mind-body therapies were especially well suited to the older adult with chronic pain," said lead author Natalia Morone. "This was because of their gentle approach, which made them suitable for even the frail older adult. Additionally, their positive emphasis on self-exploration was a potential remedy for the heavy emotional, psychological and social burden that is a hallmark of chronic pain."

The authors note that due to the scarcity of studies on the benefits of such therapies in older people, and the small sample sizes of many of the studies, more evidence about their effectiveness is needed.



Tai Chi and Ankylosing Spondylitis


Spondylitis is the name given to a group of chronic or long lasting diseases that are forms of inflammatory arthritis. It primarily affects the spine, although other joints and organs can become involved. Spondylitis, unlike many other rheumatic (arthritic) conditions, affects young adults and commonly begins before the age of 35. According to the Spondylitis Association of America, prominent researchers have stated that AS affects at least 1 in every 200 adults (approximately 0.5%), making it as common as rheumatoid arthritis.

Until recently, no studies have been done to analyze the possible benefits of using tai chi to help in treating ankylosing spondylitis. A new study, "Tai Chi for Disease Activity in Patients with Ankylosing Spondylitis - A Controlled, Clinical Trial", showed that performing 60 minutes of tai chi twice a week for 8 weeks, as well as an additional 8 weeks of at-home practice of tai chi, that people with AS showed significant improvements in disease activity and flexibility.

First published online in late August, 2007, by eCAM / Oxford Journals, the study states that the findings, "suggest that tai chi can improve disease activity and flexibility for patients with AS. Tai chi is an easily accessible therapy for patients and, as such, may be an effective intervention for AS. However, we cannot completely discount the possibility that the placebo effect was responsible for the improvement."



Start Doing Tai Chi Now, You May Be Better Protected from Flu in the Winter


A new study found traditional Chinese exercises may increase efficacy of flu vaccine

Move on mosquitoes. Step aside sweat bees. Before long, another unwelcome, but predictable, pest will return: the dreaded, oft-spotted flu bug.

But as this year's sniffling-sneezing season approaches, there's also a hint of hope present in the pre-germ-season air. In a study scheduled for publication in the August issue of the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, a team of kinesiologists at the University of Illinois suggest that older adults who adopt an exercise regimen combining Tai Chi and Qigong may get an extra boost from their annual flu shot.

"We have found that 20 weeks of Tai Chi can increase the antibody response to influenza vaccine in older adults," said the study's lead author Yang Yang, an adjunct professor of kinesiology and community health, and a Tai Chi master with 30-plus years of experience as a practitioner and instructor.

In this study, those in the exercise intervention group participated in three one-hour classes for 20 weeks, while the control group was directed to continue their regular activities for the same time period. Each class consisted of equal parts Qigong and Tai Chi, which included movements emphasizing mobility skills such as weight shifting, range of motion and coordination, and sitting and standing meditation.

According to Yang, one problem with the flu vaccine is that older adults often do not reach what are considered to be "protective levels" after receiving the vaccination. On average, he said, the Tai Chi group had much higher antibody responses to the vaccination than the control group, and the percentage of persons who achieved protective levels also was higher in the Tai Chi group. However, because of the small sample size, the percentage of persons from the Tai Chi group that achieved protective levels was not statistically different from the control.

"Our results provide 'proof-of-concept' and suggest that there needs to be a larger dedicated intervention trial with Tai Chi to definitively determine whether this type of behavioral intervention can improve influenza vaccine efficacy in older adults."

Yang said he decided to explore Tai Chi's effects on immune function, and specifically, efficacy of the influenza vaccine, after learning that another study had indicated improvement in immune response to the virus that causes shingles, a disease that often afflicts older adults.

Although the study had certain limitations – including its small subject sample and the fact that it was not a purely randomized controlled trial – Yang is confident that further study will yield more substantive proof of a link between Tai Chi and Qigong and immune function. And he said he was not surprised that this preliminary examination indicated a link. "Because the curriculum is holistic, it touches people on many fronts," he said. "So it's not surprising that you can feel the immune part, the strength part, the psychological part. It's what this art was designed for – to target all these different aspects of life, from a preventative and nurturing point of view.

And, he added, those benefits are borne out of a program that emphasizes balance.

"We don't believe the slogan, 'no pain, no gain.' In Tai Chi, it's 'no pain, you get big gain.' "




After Some Golfers Discovered Tai Chi...


With our society becoming more and more diversified and dynamic, we constantly see the East meeting the West, taking many forms and showing in many ways.

This time they are Tai Chi and Golf.

Jeff Maynard, an enthusiastic golfer, always does some of the Tai Chi warm up exercises before swinging a club ( These exercises are designed to relax the muscles prior to do Tai Chi, but Jeff found they work well for his golf preparation, too.

Mark Anthony, a golf instructor, went one big step further to explore in this direction – he is applying Tao philosophy and Tai Chi techniques in his teaching of golf ( He thinks the slow movements of Tai Chi are excellent trainings for golfers to develop a smooth fluid, effortless swing, and "the soft, whipping power in golf is effective is precisely why you see little young guys like Sergio out-drive the big guys".

In his opinion, Tai Chi uses the same exact technique to generate power in strikes that golfers use to hit long straight shots without big muscles.

Scientific researches have also revealed one common ground between Tai Chi and Golf: they both have been recognized as beneficial for improving knee joints and dynamic standing balance control.

So next time when you stand on the picturesque golf course, do some Tai Chi in addition to golf.

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