Benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong

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What are Tai Chi & Qigong?

Tai chi, also called t’ai chi ch’uan, is an ancient Chinese martial arts. It’s known for its graceful movements and slow flowing gestures. Tai chi is an expression or form of qigong. Some argue that the research about them should not be separated but instead be viewed as one whole. Tai chi is known for its mindfulness, meditation, use of imagery (tai Chi moves are based on the use of images as a learning strategy), structural alignment and flexibility, rhythmic breathing and social support. [1]

Qigong is a more general term. Qigong is used to refer to movements that have similarities to tai Chi, but it typically encompasses much more. Qigong means “cultivation or vital energy”. It can be applied to many activities that improve chi flow, such as movements. An external practitioner who directs the flow of chi is called qi gong. This therapy could be considered an energy medicine or biofield therapy, rather than a movement-based one.

How Tai Chi & Qigong Work

According to Tai Chi and Qi Gong, there are many mechanisms involved in qigong and tai chi. [ 2] Like all types of movement they can improve strength, range, and overall physical function. The strength and balance improvements are likely to be the key to fall prevention. They increase immunity [ 3] and decrease chronic inflammation. [ 4] Both are forms of movement meditation. They can both be used to increase mindful awareness and improve the mind-body connection. Neuroimaging studies have shown that Tai Chi has beneficial effects on brain function. [5]

How to Use It

Tai Chi, Qigong, and other forms of qigong are usually taught in a class format. For yoga, beginners should learn in a class to be safe and to get good technique. You can learn many different forms. They should learn the basics first and then progress over time.

Tai Chi and Qigong are for everyone

Tai chi is practiced by 3 percent of Americans. [ 6] This is particularly popular with elderly people. You can adapt it to any individual if you are conscious of the possibility of falling while participating in tai Chi. Wheelchair Tai Chi has become very popular in many VA facilities. [ 7] Qi gong and Tai Chi are offered at 81% of VA facilities (not counting community-care).

When to Use These Products

There have been many studies on the health benefits that tai Chi and Qi Gong offer. [ 4, 8-10] As with many complementary therapies, these therapies are not intended to treat any particular problem or illness.

  • Tai chi is a great way to improve your sleep and overall well-being. [4]
  • Some of the strongest evidence in favor of tai chi comes from older people, especially for fall prevention (it reduces the chance of falling by between 43-50%). [ 11, 12] It reduces fear of falling. Tai chi can improve balance in those with stroke history. [13]
  • Tai chi is beneficial for Parkinson’s patients. It also helps with balance and mobility. [ 14] Tai-chi reduces osteoarthritis pain. The American College of Rheumatology recommends it for osteoarthritis of hip, knee and hand. [ 15] Although data is scarce regarding tai Chi for Rheumatoid Arthritis[ 16], it has promise for Fibromyalgia. [17]
  • Tai chi can support cardiac rehabilitation after myocardial damage. [ 18, 19] BMI improvement is possible with moderate to low treatment effects. [20]
  • Tai chi has been linked to a higher incidence of dementia in longitudinal research. [21, 30, 32]. Research has shown that tai chi can improve cognitive performance in Parkinson’s patients [35].
  • Tai chi promotes general mental well-being. [ 22] Tai Chi reduces the severity and prevalence of depression [ 22] It improves mental health, quality of life, and mental well-being for patients with cardiovascular disease. [31]
  • Preliminary research has shown promise in treating and preventing osteoporosis. [23]
  • It can also help improve type 2 diabetes’ glucose management and hemoglobin B1c levels. [24,25]
  • Recent research shows that tai chi is effective in reducing fatigue. [26]
  • Another review stated that there is still much to be done on tai chi’s effects on chronic pain and the impact of this practice. [27]
  • A 2018 study showed that tai Chi is comparable to pulmonary rehab when it comes down to the outcomes for patients with COPD. [28]
  • One 2021 study revealed that tai Chi improved motor function and cognitive performance in older patients during the Covid 19 epidemic [37].
  • For benefits of tai Chi related to chronic heart disease, data is not as clear.
  • Qi-gong has not been extensively studied, but it is promising for people with cancer in managing their symptoms, improving their functional ability, insomnia and anxiety. [ 29] Additional research is necessary.

How to Avoid Harms

If taught properly, qi-gong and Tai Chi can be considered safe. Both include enough aerobic activity to warrant the same precautions as for other aerobic activities. But, they can be tailored to meet different people’s needs. [ 10] While limited studies have been done to assess tai chi during pregnancy, there were no adverse effects [33,34].

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