Tai chi Evidence

safety

Adverse effects of tai chi are rarely reported and may include sore muscles or sprains. Tai chi should be avoided by people with severe osteoporosis or joint problems, acute back pain, sprains, or fractures. Advancing too quickly while studying tai chi may increase the risk of injury.
Tai chi instructors sometimes recommend that practice be avoided during active infections, right after a meal, or when very tired. Some believe that visualization of energy flow below the waist during menstruation may increase menstrual bleeding. Straining downwards or holding low postures should be avoided during pregnancy and by people with inguinal hernias. Some tai chi practitioners believe that practicing for too long or using too much intention may direct the flow of chi (qi) inappropriately, possibly resulting in physical or emotional illness.
Tai chi should not be used as a substitute for more proven therapies for potentially serious conditions. Individuals should consult a qualified healthcare professional if they experience dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, or severe pain while practicing tai chi.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Aging (quality of life in the elderly) (Grade: B)
There is good evidence from several studies indicating that tai chi, if practiced regularly, may help improve quality of life in the elderly. Beyond improved balance and the preventive effects against falls, it appears that the practice may improve overall physical functioning and sense of well-being.
Sleep disorders (Grade: B)
Tai chi may lead to improved sleep quality in older adults with sleep disorders. More studies are needed before definitive recommendations can be made.
Balance and strength maintenance (Grade: C)
Early research suggests that tai chi practice may improve balance and maintain strength. These benefits may be similar to other forms of exercise. Additional research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be reached.
Body fat reducer (body fat redistribution in the elderly) (Grade: C)
There is not enough scientific evidence to recommend the use of tai chi to change body fat distribution in the elderly.
Bone density improvement (in menopausal women and the elderly) (Grade: C)
The data are mixed as to whether tai chi is beneficial for bone health in menopausal women and in the elderly. Although some early results are promising, others report that the beneficial effects of tai chi on musculoskeletal health are modest and may not translate into better clinical outcomes.
Brain injury (Grade: C)
Based on a small study, tai chi may provide short-term benefits after traumatic brain injury; however, long-term studies are needed.
Breast cancer (Grade: C)
Tai chi chuan has been studied in breast cancer patients to improve functional capacity (specifically aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and flexibility). Larger studies are needed to make a firm recommendation.
Cardiovascular disease (Grade: C)
There is evidence that suggests that tai chi decreases blood pressure and cholesterol as well as enhances quality of life in patients with chronic heart failure. Most studies have used elderly Chinese patients as their population. Additional research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Cardiovascular rehabilitation (Grade: C)
Tai chi, as a complement to existing exercise interventions, can be utilized for low and intermediate risk patients. Although promising, more study is needed to make a firm recommendation.
Chickenpox, shingles (varicella zoster) (Grade: C)
A small trial showed that treatment with tai chi might increase immunity to the virus that causes shingles. This may suggest the use of tai chi in the prevention of chickenpox and shingles, but further well-designed large studies must be done before a recommendation can be made.
Chronic pain (Grade: C)
There is a lack of scientific evidence to conclude that tai chi is effective for chronic pain conditions. Further research is needed in this area.
Cochleovestibular impairment (vestibulopathy) (Grade: C)
Early scientific evidence suggests that tai chi may be helpful as an adjunct treatment to regular vestibular rehabilitation regimes. Tai chi may improve body stability and footfall stability. More studies are needed.
Depression/anger/fatigue (Grade: C)
Preliminary research suggests that tai chi may alleviate depression, anger, and fatigue. Better studies are needed before conclusions can be drawn.
Diabetes (Grade: C)
Tai chi has been suggested as a possible therapy for improving body composition and improving blood sugar regulation in diabetics. Early results are mixed, and additional study is needed. Tai chi is not recommended over current standard of care for diabetes control.
Exercise capacity (Grade: C)
Several studies suggest that tai chi is a form of aerobic exercise that can improve aerobic capacity. In particular, benefit has been reported with the classical Yang style.
Fall prevention (elderly) (Grade: C)
Several studies have examined the effects of regular tai chi practice on balance and falling risk in the elderly. Results are not consistent, and many studies have been poorly designed. It is not clear if tai chi is safer or more effective than other forms of exercise in older individuals. Better research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
Fibromyalgia (Grade: C)
Tai chi may aid quality of life in fibromyalgia patients, but additional study is needed to make a strong recommendation.
High blood pressure (Grade: C)
Early study shows that tai chi may help patients with high blood pressure to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and anxiety.
Immune stimulant (Grade: C)
Tai chi may increase the body's immune response in older adults and in individuals with HIV. For example, patients receiving varicella vaccines and who practiced tai chi showed increased immune responses. Although early study is promising, more study is needed.
Lung function (after lung removal) (Grade: C)
Tai chi practice may help improve lung function, activity capacity, and quality of life of patients after lobectomy (lung removal usually due to cancer). More study is needed in this area.
Mood (Grade: C)
Women but not men may experience improved mood as a result of tai chi practice. Additional research is needed in this area.
Osteoarthritis (Grade: C)
A small trial in women with osteoarthritis reported that treatment with tai chi significantly decreased pain and stiffness compared with a sedentary lifestyle. Women in the tai chi group also reported fewer perceptions of difficulties in physical functioning. More well-designed studies are needed before a recommendation can be made.
Osteoporosis (Grade: C)
Preliminary research suggests that tai chi may be beneficial in delaying early bone loss in postmenopausal women. Additional evidence and long-term follow-up is needed to confirm these results.
Parkinson's disease (Grade: C)
Community-based fitness programs, which include tai chi classes, may improve balance in Parkinson's patients and motivate patients to participate in routine exercise.
Quality of life (HIV) (Grade: C)
Tai chi has been studied in individuals living with various stages of HIV. Preliminary study shows that tai chi may be helpful for stress and improving quality of life, but additional research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
Rheumatoid arthritis (Grade: C)
There is not enough scientific evidence showing that tai chi reduces rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, although tai chi may help improve range of motion of the lower extremities.
Stress (Grade: C)
Tai chi may reduce stress in various populations of people, including HIV patients and children.
Stroke recovery (Grade: C)
Tai chi may benefit social and general functioning in stroke rehab patients but may not be as effective as physiotherapy for balance and speed of walking.
Tension headaches (Grade: C)
Early study suggests that tai chi practice may be effective in reducing tension headache impact and may also be effective in improving perceptions of some aspects of physical and mental health.
Well-being/fitness/physical functioning/breathing in the elderly (Grade: C)
Several studies suggest that tai chi may improve heart and lung fitness, muscle strength, handgrip strength, flexibility, gait, coordination, and sleep and may decrease the risk of osteoporosis. It is not clear if these benefits are different from other forms of exercise. Nearly all of the studies that exist in these areas compare tai chi programs with a sedentary lifestyle, not with another form of exercise. Tai chi has been found to be of low to moderate intensity in the cardiovascular studies thus far, which makes tai chi a candidate for certain rehabilitation programs. Additional research is needed before a recommendation can be made.