For many people, the jury is still out as to whether there has been enough tai chi research studies completed to prove that it is effective in combating the health issues that so many of us face. The truth is that studies have been done in droves. And when you combine western studies with an incredible number of foreign language studies that have not been translated, it is a wonder why it is still a question at all.
Tai chi research conducted in western and eastern countries demonstrates the benefits of using tai chi to improve fitness, heart conditions, arthritis, diabetes, mood disorders, and pain management. While it has not been proven to cure these diseases, research indicates it positively impacts health markers and quality of life.
As a tai chi instructor, I repeatedly get questions about whether tai chi is safe and effective for different ailments. My heart goes out to each student because they are brave enough to be sharing something that is affecting them and are also looking for a solution that they might not have found somewhere else. I don’t take these questions lightly but have always felt the need to look into tai chi research to provide a complete, accurate answer.
So in this article I will link out to the ta chi medical research I have found on some of the greatest health problems of our time. Click through the list below if you or a loved one are facing some of these challenges. I think you will be pleasantly surprised to find out how many people are improving how they look, move, and feel. Each article shares resources to help you get started and at the end I point to the future of research to come.
If Not Tai Chi Then What?
I will begin and end this article with a strong opinion. I think it is important to point this out so that you can separate my thoughts from the tai chi research facts. While I think it is absolutely necessary to question the validity of tai chi research, it is unacceptable that medical alternatives are not presented without a discussion of the side effects.
Here’s what it looks like: A question is asked about whether tai chi can improve a medical condition. For example:
“What are the benefits of doing tai chi on arthritis?”
The result in almost every situation is that tai chi is not a cure, but improves the situation. Secondly, it is almost universally found that tai chi enhances another treatment’s effects. Using the same example, changing your diet, taking medicine, and doing tai chi improves arthritis better than doing any of the three alone.
But what is no one else comparing? The risks of tai chi with the risks of surgery, side effects of drugs, potential for injury from other activities, or continual decline from doing nothing.
Why aren’t they talking about this? Because there is no comparison. In all of the tai chi research there are no negative effects to doing tai chi. Sure, you could injure yourself if you did more activity than you are in shape for. But tai chi can be modified to be shorter, more gentle, or done seated.
What you are about to read should give you hope. And as long as you get the okay from your doctor and perform an appropriate tai chi form, research on tai chi supports that you have nothing to lose.
Over 100 Independent Tai Chi Research Studies Specific to Conditions
The truth is that there are literally 100s of research studies on tai chi. Where there used to be a few studies done by western scientists, now they seem to be sprouting up like weeds and even taking more granular looks at specific disorders. It is a lot to sort through, especially if you are unfamiliar with the illness and/or tai chi. Here are seven specific groups of tai chi research studies covering the most common problems people are facing.
In this essay I document 31 different tai chi research studies that show positive health benefits for chronic medical conditions such as pain and fibromyalgia. I also group studies based on physical health, mental health, and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s. I don’t go as in depth into each of the studies like I do in the following essays. But it is a great article to share with a doctor or someone who is on the fence.
This is a fun read where we talk about why the government funds research on tai chi and losing weight and the results of three research studies.
Arthritis is a debilitating condition and deserves an article of its own. In this piece we combed through the seven benefits arthritis sufferers are getting from tai chi and focus specifically on the research related to rheumatoid arthritis.
This article on the heart works to dispel the rumors that tai chi cures heart disease and instead shows how people with chronic heart conditions are using tai chi to improve their quality of life.
Tai Chi has mental benefits as well as physical benefits as it improves our health both inside and out. We talk about the different degrees of sadness or depression and dive into the role that loneliness plays in our life.
One-in-ten Americans have diabetes which means we all have the potential for heading in the direction of pre-diabetes if not a full blown diagnosis. In this essay we talk about why using tai chi is a successful strategy for improving blood glucose levels.
I have a personal relationship with back pain and use the space in this essay to show how tai chi was an integral part in my healing process as I journeyed back to living pain free.
Lastly, to give you an idea of how versatile tai chi is for any condition and how to add it to your life, we wrote this article to give you ideas and the resources to get up and running.
The Future of Tai Chi Research
I have to allow my opinion to seep into this last section here although I support it with another research article. The nature of “Western” medical research is very biased – towards the west. If it wasn’t conducted in western labs and not published in English, it is often not included. This makes a lot of sense from a practical standpoint because how are you going to include studies you don’t know about or can’t read? But this is problematic considering that tai chi is an eastern medical modality with hundreds of years of use and research.
With improvements in translation software, with increased collaborations between Chinese and western doctors, and with doctors studying in different countries, I predict we will have greater access to more research. Imagine what research review studies on using tai chi for heart disease would look like if they included 50% Chinese and 50% Western research? Here is just such an example of a study on the effects of tai chi chuan on fitness.
Tai chi: physiological characteristics and beneficial effects on health
Researchers J X Li, Y Hong, and K M Chan from the University of Hong Kong reviewed 31 studies in Chinese and English that focused on using tai chi to improve specific physiological responses like heart rate or general fitness. Collectively the studies included 2216 men and women which is a huge sample if you think of it. Here is what they found:
“Tai Chi Chuan is a moderate intensity exercise that is beneficial to cardiorespiratory function, immune capacity, mental control, flexibility, and balance control; it improves muscle strength and reduces the risk of falls.”
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