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Benefits & Medical Studies of Tai Chi

• General Benefits

• Psychological Benefits

• Mental Homeostasis

• Immune System

• Breathing, Aches, Blood


• Balance

• Mental & Physical


• Postural Control

• Beyond Traditional Care

• Cures/Prevention

• Rheumatoid Arthritis

• Support Groups

Recommending Tai Chi


• Tai Chi & Gestalt Therapy

• Psychosomatic Illness

• Tai Chi Helps Understand Change

• Elderly

• Cardioresperitory Effects

• Sports Health

GENERAL BENEFITS: [Tai Chi] teaches inner strength while toning muscles, increasing flexibility, and boosting immune power. It is also said to reduce stress, store up energy, increase body awareness, and improve balance and coordination. Tai Chi was the closely held secret of a few Chinese families for nearly 1,000 years... Men's Health Magazine, 8 Mar/Apr '93 p. 66-69

PHYSIOLOGICAL BENEFITS: Relative to measurement beforehand, practice of Tai Chi raised heart rate, increased noradrenaline excretion in urine, and decreased salivary cortisol concentration. Relative to baseline levels [Test Subjects] reported less tension, depression, anger, fatigue, confusion and state-anxiety; they felt more vigorous, and in general they had less total mood disturbance. (American Psychological Association) Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 1989 V. 33 (2) 197-206

MENTAL HOMEOSTASIS: Psychological homeostasis refers to emotional control or tranquility. It has been stated that the biological function of human emotion and repression is primarily homeostatic. Evidence suggests that a feedback relationship exists between forms of homeostasis, and the body-mind type of therapies (including acupuncture and Tai Chi) thus have a combined physiological, physical, and psychological effect. (American Psychological Association) American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 1981 Spring V. 9 (1) 1-14

IMMUNE SYSTEM: A study conducted in China indicates that Tai Chi may increase the number of T lymphocytes in the body. Also know as T-Cells, these lymphocytes help the immune system destroy bacteria and possibly even tumor cells. Prevention Magazine V. 42, May 90, p.14-15

BREATHING, ACHES, BLOOD PRESSURE: ...participants observed a "big increase in breathing capacity", a disappearance of back aches and neck aches, those with high blood pressure claimed a drop of 10 to 15 mm Hg systolic at rest, and all participants claimed to have more energy in their daily work. Hawaii Medical Journal – V. 51 No. 8 August 92

BALANCE: A ten-year study on aging through Harvard, Yale and Emory University determined not only that Tai Chi was superior to more technological balance therapies, but also that Tai Chi reduced the risk of injury by falling by 48%. Complications from these injuries are the sixth leading cause of death in older Americans, and account for about $10 billion loss per year to the economy. USA Today, May 1996

BALANCE: Institute of Chicago indicates that people with moderate balance problems can be helped by practicing Tai Chi. Participants...of the 2 month course ...experienced about a 10 percent improvement in balance. An Emory University study supports Hain's findings. Prevention Magazine V. 46 Dec. 94 p. 71-72

MENTAL & PHYSICAL STRESS: Mind & body exercises, such as...Tai Chi...are increasingly replacing high-impact aerobics, long distance running and other body punishing exercises of the 1980's ...Mind/body workouts are kinder to the joints and muscles … reduce the tension that often contributes to the development of disease, which makes them especially appropriate for high powered, stressed out baby boomers. Unlike most conventional exercises, these forms are intended to stretch, tone, and relax the whole body instead of isolating parts...based on a series of progressive choreographed movements coordinated with deep breathing. Working Woman Magazine V. 20 Feb. 95 p. 60-62+

POSTURAL CONTROL: Tai Chi, a traditional Chinese exercise, is a series of individual dance like movements linked together in a continuous, smooth-flowing sequence ... An analysis of variance (ANOVA) demonstrated that in 3 of 5 tests, the Tai Chi practitioners had significantly better postural control than the sedentary non practitioners. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 1992 Apr. V. 46 (4) 295-300

BEYOND TRADITIONAL CARE: Health practitioners encountering clients who are faced with problems that do not seem to respond to traditional health care...may employ some of the health traditions of other cultures and to view the body and mind as a balanced whole. Massage, acupuncture and Tai Chi...focus on the mind/body connection to facilitate healing through relaxation, pressure points, and movement. AAOHN Journal, 1993 July, 41 (7) 349-351

CURES/PREVENTIONS: Proponents claim that Tai Chi can also (1) cure illnesses such as hypertension, asthma, and insomnia; (2) prevent arteriosclerosis and spinal deformity, and (3) shorten recovery phase from long-term illness. Results from a study by Chen Munyi (1963) with elderly Tai Chi practitioners show that this group had RTs, strength, and flexibility superior to non-practitioners. (American Psychological Association) American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 1981 Spr. V. 9(1) 15-22

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS: No significant exacerbation of joint symptoms using this weight bearing system of exercises (Tai Chi) was observed. Tai Chi exercises appear to be safe for RA patients...weight bearing exercises have the potential advantages of stimulating bone growth and strengthening connective tissue, ... American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, June 1991, 70 (3) p. 136-141

SUPPORT GROUPS RECOMMENDING TAI CHI: Multiple Sclerosis Fibromyalgia, Parkinson's Disease, Lupus, Migraines, Chronic Pain

AIDS: Proper exercise [for AIDS sufferers] is typified by Tai Chi. Dr. Laurence E. Badgley, M.D. 

PSYCHOLOGY: "Tai Chi is a natural and safe vehicle for both clients and staff to learn and experience the benefits of being able to channel, concentrate and co-ordinate their bodies and minds: to learn to relax and to neutralize" rather than resist the stress in their personal lives. This is an ability, which we greatly need to nurture in our modern fast-paced society. Dr. John Beaulieu, 

N.D., M.T.R.S. Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, N.Y.C. [Refer to the Tai Chi book "The Supreme Ultimate" for full text]

TAI CHI & GESTALT THERAPY: Discussion of Tai Chi, a Chinese system of integrated exercises, as an effective adjunct to Gestalt Therapy. (American Psychological Association) Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 1978 Fall V. 10 (1) 25-31

PSYCHOSOMATIC ILLNESS: A holistic paradigm, Tai Chi, is proposed as a theoretical basis for treating psychosomatic illness. (American Psychological Assn.) Journal of Black Psychology, 1980 Aug. V. 7(1) 27-43

TAI CHI HELPS UNDERSTAND CHANGE: Suggests the imagery of the Tai Chi figure...can serve as a model for understanding the processes of change within psychotherapy. The Tai Chi figure expresses the themes of unity and completeness, the dynamic of interplay and balance of opposite forces, and the cyclical nature of therapeutic change. (American Psychological Assn.) Psychologia, An International Journal of Psychology in the Orient, 1991 Mar. V. 34 (1) 18-27

ELDERLY: According to Tai Chi enthusiasts, the discipline can prevent many ailments, including high blood pressure, tuberculosis, and diabetes, and US scientists agree that Tai Chi can offer some important fitness benefits, particularly for older adults. Modern Maturity, V. 35 June/July 92 p. 60-62

CARDIORESPERITORY EFFECTS: Conclusion: The data substantiate that practicing Tai Chi regularly may delay the decline of cardio-resperatory function in older individuals. In addition, TC may be prescribed as a suitable aerobics exercise for older adults. Journal of American Geriatric Society, Nov. 1995, 43 (11) p 1222-1227 ISSN 0002-8614 Journal Code: H6V

SPORTS HEALTH: [Former] Boston Celtic's star Robert Parish, who, at age 39, is the oldest player in the NBA, credits the ancient martial art of Tai Chi with his durability. Parish remains dominant in his 17th season in the league, and he has no plans to retire. He started all 79 games that he played last year for the Celtics, averaging 14.1 points, shooting 54 percent from the field and 77 percent from the free throw line, and racking up a season total of 705 rebounds and 97 blocked shots. Inspired by his success, fellow Celtics players Reggie Lewis and Rick Fox have signed on with Li (Parish's Tai Chi instructor). Gentlemen's Quarterly V. 62 Dec. 92, p 256-60 March 13, 1999


Tai Chi Chuan and Blood Pressure

(Reuters) - Tai chi - a slow, relaxed form of exercise with origins in ancient China - lowered people's blood pressure almost as well as moderate intensity aerobic exercise, according to a study presented recently at a meeting sponsored by the American Heart Association. "You better believe we were surprised by those results," one of the researchers, Dr. Deborah R. Young, MD, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, said in a statement. "We were expecting to see significant changes in the aerobic exercise group and minimal changes in the Tai chi grow. The scientists studied 62 sedentary adults, aged 60 years and older, assigning half to a program of brisk walking and low-impact aerobics and the other half to learning Tai chi. After 12 weeks, systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading) had fallen significantly in both groups, an average of 8.4 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) in the aerobic exercise group and 7 mm Hg in the Tai chi group. "It could be that in elderly, sedentary people, just getting up and doing some slow movement could be associated with beneficial reductions in high blood pressure," Young theorizes.

High blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke and heart attack. Young cautions that the results of her research need to be confirmed by studying a larger group of people. "Until we know more, I encourage people to go out and do brisk walking on a regular basis," she said. "We know it's associated with an attitude of health benefits."

Two Studies by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) initiative, launched in 1990

The two studies were the first involving Tai Chi to be reported by scientists in a special frailty reduction program sponsored by NIA. Public Information Office (301) 496-1752

In the first study, Steven L. Wolf, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga., found that older people taking part in a 15-week Tai Chi program reduced their risk of falling by 47.5 percent. A second study, by Leslie Wolfson, M.D., and colleagues at the University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, found that several interventions to improve balance and strength among older people were effective. These improvements, particularly in strength, were preserved over a 6-month period while participants did Tai Chi exercises.

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Volume 21 Number 11 - September 1996 Issue


The following is an excerpt from the article "Injury Prevention" of this issue citing a study by the American Geriatric Society on Tai Chi....

Another promising way to prevent falls is exercise to improve balance, flexibility, muscle strength, and reaction time. A study in the May 1996 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed that Tai Chi—an ancient Chinese martial art that employs slow, precise movements—helped improve balance and strength among seniors. Those who underwent Tai Chi training for 15 weeks reduced their risk of falling by 47.5% compared with those who didn't take classes.

Another major benefit was decreased fear of falling—a worry that often prevents older people from being as active as they'd like.


Wellness Letter, The Newsletter of Nutrition, Fitness & Stress Management Volume 15, Issue 2 November 1998. From the School of Public Health

Tai Chi: smooth, balanced, low-impact

Though it originated as a self-defense technique, Tai Chi Chuan (or simply Tai Chi, pronounced tie-jee) has been practiced in China for centuries as an art form, religious ritual, relaxation technique, and exercise for people of all ages, even those in their eighties and nineties. Tai Chi Chuan literally means "Grand Ultimate Fist," but most people today do not practice it as a martial art. Across America and Canada thousands of people perform the slow, balanced, low-impact movements of Tai Chi, generally as a means of improving flexibility and balance, strengthening muscles, and reducing stress.

Tai Chi involves dozens of dance like postures, performed in sequences known as "forms" or "sets," derived from animal postures (such as the snake, dragon, or tiger). At first glance it resembles karate in slow motion or swimming in air. In fact, it is based on the concept of withstanding aggression without force—yielding to a blow and using an attacker's momentum against him. It calls for concentration, controlled breathing, balanced shifting of body weight, and muscle relaxation—thus it is often called "moving meditation." Though Tai Chi movements are slow, they can provide a fairly intense workout.

Here are some of the potential health benefits of Tai Chi:

Flexibility coming from the choreographed exercises gently taking your joints through their full range of motion. Studies show that the controlled movements can be helpful for people with arthritis (but they should check with their doctors before starting any exercise program).

Physical therapy. Some research has found that Tai Chi can be a form of physical therapy and aid in the recovery of injuries.

Balance. The smooth, slow movements help instill physical confidence and may enhance balance and coordination.

Strengthening. Tai chi helps tone muscles in the lower body, especially the thighs, buttocks and calves.

Posture. Your head, neck, and spine are usually aligned, thus relieving strain on the neck and lower back.

Relaxation. Tai Chi can have some of the same psychological benefits as Yoga. The concentration on the body's fluid motion and on breathing helps many people relax, and can relieve tension and anxiety.

Lowerblood pressure. Though studies have had conflicting results, a recent study presented at the American Heart Association meeting found that

Twelve weeks of Tai Chi resulted in a small but significant drop in blood pressure in older people. Tai Chi requires no special clothing or equipment and can be done even in a small space. The best way to learn Tai Chi is in a class from an experienced instructor who can guide you through the positions. Tai chi classes are often available at the Y, health clubs, colleges, and adult education programs. Check the Yellow Pages under martial arts instruction. Books and videos may also be helpful, though these seldom can take the place of an instructor. It takes years to become adept at Tai Chi, but within a few weeks you can learn several movements or positions.

Second thoughts. A few researchers claim that Tai Chi can provide a cardiovascular workout as good as jogging. But any such benefit is likely to be minimal. Do some aerobic exercise along with your Tai Chi.



Volume 17, Issue 10 December 1999


A No-Sweat Exercise with Multiple Benefits

IMAGINE PARTICIPATION in a fitness study turning out so enjoyable that the subjects decide to get together on their own to continue the activity once the research itself comes to an end. That's what happened at the conclusion of a 15-week Tai Chi study conducted at Emory University in Atlanta several years ago. Dozens of men and women in their 70's and older so enjoyed learning Tai Chi graceful movements that improve balance that they kept meeting by themselves. The Emory University researchers were happy, too. They found that those people who learned to perform Tai Chi were almost 50 percent less likely to suffer falls within a given time frame than subjects who simply received feedback from a computer screen on how much they swayed as they stood. That's no small thing. Each year, almost one in three people over 65 takes a fall. And fall survivors suffer great declines in activities of daily living than non-fallers and are also at greater risk of institutionalization.

But Tai Chi does more than help prevent falls. Research suggests that it also improves heart and lung function; reduces the body's levels of cortisol (a stress hormone); and improves confidence. Now a new study, conducted at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, indicates that it can also lower systolic blood pressure, the first number in a blood pressure reading. People between the ages of 60 and 80 with moderately high blood pressure were instructed to engage either in low impact aerobic dance or Tai Chi several times a week. The Tai Chi Group, it turned out, lowered their systolic blood pressure by an average of 7 points—just a point less than the aerobics group. And they did it without even working up a sweat, even though they were medically obese and lived sedentary lives. Tai Chi barely raises the heart rate.

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