Tai Chi and its Health Benefits


Tai chi is  “movement meditation”, so if you cannot sit or lie down long enough to meditate, consider tai chi instead.


Research has confirmed [1] many similarities between meditation and Tai chi.

In a study [2], elderly Chinese adults living in group homes were placed in tai chi, walking, social interaction, or no intervention groups.

The tai chi group saw:

  • increases in brain volume,
  • verbal learning, and
  • verbal fluency, as well as
  • improvements in dementia scores.

Tai chi also lowers cardiovascular risk [3] in women (more below), just like meditation.

Tai Chi and COPD

COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is the name used to describe a number of conditions affecting the lungs including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

COPD makes it difficult to breathe and often makes everyday tasks a real challenge. But with the right support, it is possible to live well with COPD.

Recent research has found that Tai Chi can be beneficial to COPD patients. It is thought to improve functionality without worsening breathlessness, a common and uncomfortable symptom of chronic respiratory disease.

Tai Chi for Cardiovascular Disease

Several have shown that tai chi can reduce certain cardiovascular risk factors, including reducing levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides, increasing levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and slowing heart rate.

There is also quite a bit of evidence to suggest the practice can improve blood pressure. Harvard doctors who conducted a systematic review of the medical literature in 2008 [6] found that 22 of 26 studies reported reductions in blood pressure among participants who practiced tai chi.

One 1996 trial [7] that randomly assigned 126 heart attack survivors to either a tai chi, an aerobic exercise or a non-exercise support group for eight weeks found improvements in both diastolic and systolic blood pressure (the top and bottom numbers) only in the tai chi group. Participants were also more likely to stick with the tai chi program over time.

Tai Chi for OsteoArthritis

There is some encouraging evidence suggesting that tai chi may be effective for pain control in patients with knee OA [8]

Tai Chi for Mental Wellbeing

The studies in a review of tai chi for anxiety, depression and psychological well-being [9] showed that tai chi interventions have beneficial effects for various populations on a range of psychological well-being measures, including depression, anxiety, general stress management, and exercise self-efficacy.

A 2015 meta-analysis [10] of randomised-controlled studies showed that Traditional Chinese Exercise can significantly improve the quality of life and depression of patients with chronic diseases


In general, researchers say that more studies would be helpful. Many of the trials that have been done [11] are small, prescribe different regimens and different types of tai chi, and follow people for varying amounts of time. Those limitations make it hard to draw firm conclusions about the effects in traditional scientific studies.

What we do know is that tai chi, characterised by gentle movement and deep breathing, offers a non-traditional form of exercise that may appeal particularly to elderly or frail individuals and those who “get bored at the gym,” said Alona D. Angosta, who wrote a review of the research on tai chi [12]. We also know that tai chi is unlikely to do anyone any harm and many report tai chi practice has benefited them at various levels.


Emanuela is a qualified chronic respiratory disease exercise instructor. She has been offering Tai Chi Qigong Shibashi sessions for several years.

Just 15-20 minutes of tai chi a day have amazing effects in terms of improving mood, circulation and reducing stress.

To find out about tai chi sessions currently available, or to register your interest, please contact  Pilates Fitness.



[1]  Tai chi and meditation: A conceptual (re)synthesis?                  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19443697

[2]  Changes in brain volume and cognition in a randomized trial of exercise and social interaction in a community-based sample of non-demented Chinese elders http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22451320

[3] The Effects of Tai Chi on Cardiovascular Risk in Women               http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26305613

[4] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-34279190

[5] http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2015/09/04/bjsports-2014-094388.short?rss=1

[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18401235

[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8758013

[8] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17874172

[9] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24078491

[10] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26525282

[11] https://nccih.nih.gov/sites/nccam.nih.gov/files/D322taichi.pdf

[12] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=tai+chi%2C+angosta


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