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The Health Benefits of the Practice of Tai Chi Chuan (Tai Chi, Taijiquan)
"Tai Chi is a
wonderful form of mental and physical stimulation, great for your overall
health. The word "tai chi" refers to a perfect balance between the yin and the yang-the
two forces of the universe. People who do tai chi perfect a series of motions that flow into one another very
smoothly and gracefully, while the body is held straight and upright. The movements are gentle, continuous, and
circular, exercising every part of the body equally.
Tai Chi is a great form of exercise, especially for those with osteoarthritis. It can help you build your leg muscles, strengthen your posture, and improve your balance, flexibility, and mobility. It also can teach you to relax and focus, even while executing the moves, and is a way to harmonize the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. In addition, it helps to develop concentration and coordination, and can reduce the risk of falls common with the elderly."
- Andrew Weil, M.D., Good Morning E-mail Newsletter, July 9, 2003
gentle form of exercise can prevent or ease many ills of aging and could be the
perfect activity for the rest of your life. Tai chi is often
described as "meditation in motion," but it might well be called "medication
in motion." There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which
originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many
health problems. And you can get started even if you aren't in top shape or the
best of health.
In this low-impact, slow-motion exercise, you go without pausing through a series of motions named for animal actions — for example, "white crane spreads its wings" — or martial arts moves, such as "box both ears." As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention — as in some kinds of meditation — on your bodily sensations. Tai chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched.
"A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for tai chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age," says Peter M. Wayne, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Program at Harvard Medical School's Osher Research Center. An adjunct therapy is one that's used together with primary medical treatments, either to address a disease itself or its primary symptoms, or, more generally, to improve a patient's functioning and quality of life."
- Harvard Medical School Health Publications, The Health Benefits of Tai Chi, 2012
"Despite its long history, tai chi has been studied scientifically only in recent years. And although more research is needed, preliminary evidence suggests that tai chi may offer numerous benefits beyond stress reduction, including:
"By building and learning to
direct internal energy for fighting, the practitioners also cleansed their bodies and built their immune systems. But don't just take my word for it
- there is research that shows that Tai Ji Quan does exactly what the old
Chinese have been claiming for centuries. For example, David Anderson
in the journal T'ai Chi, February 1993 an experiment in which 20
minutes of Tai Ji Quan was shown to increase heart rate and the amount of oxygen
present in the tissues of the toes. Patrick Hancock, MD, reports healing a number of problems that ranged from high blood pressure to heroin addiction,
using Tai Ji Quan (T'ai Chi, February, 1990). A more recent experiment was
conducted at Emory Medical School and widely reported in medical journals.
This study was directly focused on the benefits of Tai Ji Quan for senior citizens. It was found that the practice of Tai Ji Quan reduced the number
of falls (by half) and markedly reduced the incidence of broken bones in a test
group who had done Tai Ji Quan for more than a year, when compared with a group
of the same age range who jogged, bicycled, or performed other exercise for the
same amount of time every week (Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, May,
1996). Research at China's Zhong Shan Medical College, showed that 20
minutes or more of Tai Ji Quan practice increased the number of both T-cells and
H-cells (disease fighting cells) in the bloodstream and the increase was greater
than for persons who jogged, lifted weights, or did other strenuous exercise for
the same amount of time."
- Dr. Don Lee Schurman, Sleeping Tiger School of Internal Martial Arts
"Any single repetitive pattern tends to distort the open-ended flexibility
of the entire
system. Let us be on our guard against adopting any particular posture,
mode of exercise, or repetitive discipline as being perfect, or ideal, or best.
variation calls the full alertness of the system into being. It is, after all, constant variation that we are called upon to cope with throughout our lives, a condition from which we can only partially insulate ourselves no matter how hard we many try to cling to models, and no matter how "right" those models appear to be from a particular theoretical point of view.
Any set pattern, no matter how good it looks on paper, is a fixation that threatens to be crushed by its own existence to the onrush of things and events. The goal of bodywork should not be to impose universalized standards of posture and movement upon an individual, but rather to help the individual to cultivate the mental awareness and flexibility to continually adapt to the changing needs of the moment."
- Dean Juhan, Job's Body: The Handbook for Bodywork, 1987, p. 142.
"Tai Chi, a moving meditation, is examined for its efficacy in
post-stressor recovery. Forty-eight male
and 48 female Tai Chi practitioners were randomly assigned to four treatment
groups: Tai Chi, brisk walking, mediation and neutral reading. Mental arithmetic and other difficult
tests were chosen as mental challenges, and a stressful film was used to produce emotional
disturbance. Tai Chi and the other treatments were applied after these stressors. After all treatments,
the salivary cortisol level dropped significantly, and the mood states were also improved. In general
the stress-reduction effect of Tai Chi characterized moderate physical exercise. Heart rate, blood
pressure, and urinary catecholamine changes for Tai Chi were found to be similar to those for walking
at a speed of 6 km/hr."
- "Efficacy of Tai Chi, Brisk Walking, Meditation and Reading in Reducing Mental and Emotional Stress." By Jin P. Department of Psychology, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia. Psychosomatic Research. 1992 May;36(4):361-70. Abstract
"Health-related quality of life (HRQL)
and self-esteem are often diminished among women diagnosed and treated for
breast cancer. Tai Chi is a moderate form of exercise that may be an effective
therapy for improving HRQL and self-esteem among these women. We sought to
compare the efficacy of Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) and psychosocial support (PST) for
improving HRQL and self-esteem among breast cancer survivors. A group of
21 women diagnosed with breast cancer, who had completed treatment within the
last 30 months were randomized to receive 12 weeks of TCC or PST. Participants
in both groups met three times a week for 60 minutes. HRQL and self-esteem were
assessed at baseline, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks. The TCC group demonstrated
significant improvements in HRQL, while the PST group reported declines in HRQL,
with the differences between the two groups approaching significance at week 12.
Additionally, the TCC group exhibited improvements in self-esteem, while the PST
group reported declines in self-esteem, with the differences between groups
reaching statistical significance at week 12. These findings, coupled with a
visual inspection of the raw change scores, support the plausibility of a
dose-response relationship concerning Tai Chi."
- University of Rochester School of Medicine, 2004, Tai Chi Health Quality of Life
"It is encouraging to see so many Westerners turning to Yoga and
experiencing its benefits. Current estimates suggest there are up to 20 million Yoga
practitioners in the United States alone. In at least ninety-nine percent of cases, their
Yoga practice consists of doing Hatha-Yoga postures one or more times per week.
Clearly, even this limited approach is producing some good results.
According to a report by Intersurvey Inc. (www.intersurvey.com)
dated May 12, 2000, 9 percent of Americans have tried “Yoga” (as opposed to 14 percent who
have experimented with meditation of an unspecified nature and 3 percent who have tried Tai Chi). Yoga’s effectiveness has been rated 87 percent (as opposed to meditation, which came in at 85 percent, and Tai Chi at 73
- Georg Feuerstein, Comments on Contempoary Yoga
"Last spring the British Journal of Sports Medicine released a comprehensive
review of 31 tai chi studies involving 2216 men and women.
"Tai Chi is a moderate intensity exercise that is beneficial to
cardio-respiratory function (heart
and breathing), immune capacity, mental control, flexibility and balance control; it improves muscle
strength and reduces the risk of falling in the elderly.""
- Dr. Keith Jeffery, Tai Chi Newsletter, September 2003
"Why Tai Chi Is the Perfect Exercise—Especially for
Seniors." Time, August, 2002. "The article
quoted scientists at the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene, who are studying Tai
Chi's health benefits. They reported that "Tai Chi offers the greatest benefit to older men and women
because it helps improve balance, strength, and agility"—all of which are necessary for seniors to
maintain a high quality of life."
- Rogue Valley Manor News
Feb 2000, p 45) calls t'ai-chi the "Ultimate low-impact
exercise", an exercise that can be done by any one who can walk, the only caveat being
people with knee problems may have problems doing it. CR
claims t'ai-chi can improve cardiovascular endurance as well as improve posture, strength and balance.
CR sites a 1992
Australian study that found it had the same effect as brisk walking on heart rate, blood
pressure and stress hormones. Scientific studies
have found that it can lower blood pressure, improve balance, improve circulation and make seniors feel empowered.
- Harvey Kurland, Preface to a History of Taijiquan
"The latest evidence looking into the health benefits of Tai Chi comes from
researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School
in Boston, who followed a group of heart failure patients as they took a twice
weekly Tai Chi class for three months. At the end of the study -- published in
today's Archives of Internal Medicine,
one of the JAMA/Archives journals -- the Tai Chi practitioners felt better, were
more confident about their ability to perform everyday tasks and led far more
active lifestyles than a similar group who attended twice-weekly health
The subjects in this most recent study didn't increase aerobic fitness levels but in previous studies where subjects attended class more often and practiced a more strenuous version of Tai Chi, they did. Other studies found Tai Chi helps build bone density, lower blood pressure and even boost the immune system, physical benefits normally attributed exclusively to more vigorous workouts."
- Liz Porente, ABC News Medical Unit, 2011, Tai Chi is Heart Healthy
"Flexibility: The choreographed
exercises gently take 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 of yoga.
The concentration on the body's fluid motion and on breathing helps many people
relax, and can relieve tension and anxiety. Lower blood pressure: Though
studies have had conflicting results, a recent study presented at the American
Heart Association meeting found that 12 weeks of tai chi resulted in a small but
significant drop in blood pressure in older people."
- University of California at Berkeley Wellness Newsletter, 11/1998
"T'ai Chi Ch'uan, when practiced over a period of time, is one of the most
to prevent and cure high blood pressure which arises due to hardening of the
middle aged and elderly people."
- Dr. Mei Ying Sheng, 1994, T'ai Chi Magazine
"Results of a study published in the March 8,
2004, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that tai chi seems to improve functioning in the heart, blood vessels and
lungs among healthy people as well as those with heart conditions, including patients who
have had coronary artery bypass surgery. Practicing tai chi also appears to reduce pain, stress
and anxiety and
may improve memory, concentration and digestion. So far, there's no hard evidence to explain how tai chi might affect health in these beneficial ways. The researchers from the Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston, who conducted the current study, now plan to investigate exactly why tai chi works and who it can benefit the most."
- Dr. Andrew Weil's Weekly Newsletter, March 18, 2004
"T'ai Chi uses one's internal
energy, and channels it to be readily available through internal power.
Physically, this internal exercise works muscles and joints to unify breathing
and thus "improves the circulation of the blood and the lymphatic gland,"
increases the power of the immune system, and "balances regulatory functions."
T'ai Chi concentrates on harmonizing muscles and blood flow to the heart, due to
deep breathing, which in turn allows a "greater amount of oxygen [to be]
available for consumption." This circulation is beneficial to the heart as it
prevents many "diseases of the heart and the viscera and inflexibility of the
cardiac muscle" (http://www.spiritweb.org/Spirit/tai-chi.html).
On his web page, "Application of T'ai Chi Chuan", Vincent Li says that T'ai Chi
"serves the purposes of strengthening the central nervous system, improving the
blood circulation, increasing nourishment to the heart and the viscera and
promoting better digestion;" this means it also helps prevent the process of
substitution and the contraction of diseases prone to the aged (http://www.spiritweb.org/Spirit/tai-chi.html).
The H. Won T'ai Chi Institute believes that T'ai Chi can also cure hypertension,
ulcers, and other gastrointestinal disorders and complaints (http://www.nytaichi.com/tcc.htm).
The benefits of T'ai Chi are that it "offers a balanced drill to the muscles and
joints of the various parts of the body in the way of complicated actions which,
in turn, are regulated by the timing of deep breathing and the movement of the
- Julie Hasel, The Benefits of Tai Chi, Vanderbilt University Psychology Department
"In a randomized study, researchers
found that patients with chronic stroke can improve their standing balance,
perhaps reducing their risk of falls, by learning a simplified form of the
Chinese martial art of Tai Chi, with the beneficial effects on balance lasting
beyond the training period.
In a previous study, Dr. Christina W. Y. Hui-Chan of the University of Illinois at Chicago and colleagues saw improvement in standing balance among a group of healthy elderly individuals following 4 weeks of intensive Tai Chi practice.
In their latest study, the team randomized 136 patients more than 6 months following stroke to 12 weeks of Tai Chi, consisting of an hour-long weekly small-group class led by a physical therapist, supplemented by 3 hours of self-practice at home, or to a control group that performed general breathing, stretching and other exercises involving sitting, walking, memorizing and reasoning.
They used a simplified "short-form" of Tai Chi that had been shown to be beneficial in arthritis patients consisting of 12 forms that require whole-body movements to be performed in a continuous sequence. Tests of balance were administered at baseline, 6 weeks (mid-program), 12 weeks (end-program) and 18 weeks (follow-up).
In an Online First report issued by the "Journal of Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair," Dr. Hui-Chan and colleagues report that the Tai Chi group outperformed the control exercise group in several balance tests -- such as their ability to maintain balance while shifting weight, leaning in different directions, and standing on moving surfaces to simulate a crowded bus.
Improvement in "the ability to shift your weight is very important because all reaching tasks require it," Dr. Hui-Chan noted in a university-issued statement."
- Reuters Health, Tai Chi Improves Balance in Stroke Victims, 2009
"Recently, evidence (6)
indicates that physical inactivity can increase proinflammatory burden
independently of obesity, and exercise may induce anti-inflammatory mediators (7).
Strenuous exercise has been shown to augment proinflammatory reaction (8,9)
and compromise adaptive immunity with a higher risk of upper respiratory tract
Moreover, strenuous exercise might also potentiate hypoglycemia in elderly
diabetic patients (11).
In contrast, certain studies show that moderate exercise enhances T-cell
and decreases respiratory infections (13),
which suggests that the volume of exercise is a critical element of inducing a
positive or negative immune response in diabetic patients. Tai Chi Chuan (TCC)
exercise, a traditional Chinese martial art that is classified as a moderate
exercise because it does not demand >55% of maximal oxygen intake (14),
can benefit balance and cardiovascular and respiratory function (14–16)."
- American Diabetes Association, 2006 Research
Articles, Books and Resources of Interest Regarding the Health Benefits of Tai Chi Chuan
"Are the Internal Arts Scientific?" By Alex Yeo. T'ai Chi: The International Magazine of T'ai Chi Ch'uan, Volume 28, No. 3, June 2004, pp. 26-29.
Arthritis Therapy - Exercise - Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong Bibliography, links, notes, quotes, and references to medical studies.
"The Beneficial Effects of T'ai Chi on Blood Pressure." Written by Dr. Mei Ying Sheng. Translated by Ted W. Knecht. T'ai Chi: The International Magazine of T'ai Chi Ch'uan. Vol. 18, No. 5, October, 1994, pp. 32-33.
"Changes in hemodynamlc parameters following tai chl chuan and aerobic exercise in patients recovering from acute myocardial ininfarction." Channer, K., Barrow, D., Barrow, P, Osborne, M., & Ives, G. Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine: 72, 349-351, 1996.
Chi Kung and Other Alternative Medicine Options Index.
Chi Kung: Health and Martial Arts. By Yang, Jwing-Ming. Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, Yang's Martial Arts Association, 1987. Glossary and terms. 120 pages. ISBN: 0940871009. The exercise that moves the chi from the tan tien up to the head and around the body is called Nei Dan "Internal Elixir" (pp. 43-76).
Clinical Trails Show How Tai Chi Chuan Helps Heart, Arthritis, and Motor Function. By Bill Gallagher, PT, MS
The Complete Book of Chinese Health and Healing. By Daniel Reid. Random House, 1994. 484 pages. ISBN: 0877739293.
Diabetes Therapy - Exercise - Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong Bibliography, links, notes, quotes, and references to medical studies.
"Efficacy of Tai Chi, Brisk Walking, Meditation and Reading in Reducing Mental and Emotional Stress." By Jin P. Department of Psychology, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia. Psychosomatic Research. 1992 May;36(4):361-70. Abstract
The Essence of Tai Chi Chi Kung: Health and Martial Arts. By Yang Jwing-Ming, Ph.D. Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, 1990. Glossary, 148 pages. ISBN: 0940871106.
"Exploring the basis for tai chi chuan as a therapeutic exercise." Wolf, S. L., Coogler. C., & XU, T. Archives of Physical Medical Rehabilitation: 78, 886-892, 1997.
"An Evaluation of the Effects of Tai Chi Exercise on Physical Function Among Older Persons: A Randomized Controlled Trial." By L. Fuzhong and others. The Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Volume 23 Number 2, pages 139-146. May 2001.
Factsheet on Tai Chi Chuan for Persons with Disabilities. NCPAD is part of the Department of Disability and Human Development in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The Healer Within. Using Traditional Chinese Techniques to Release Your Body's Own Medicine - Movement, Massage, Meditation and Breathing. By Roger Jahnke, O.M.D. Harper San Francisco, 1999. 288 pages. ISBN: 0062514776.
The Healing Promise of Qi: Creating Extraordinary Wellness Through Qigong and Tai Chi. By Roger Jahnke, O.M.D.. Chicago, Contemporary Books, 2002. Index, notes, extensive recommended reading list, 316 pages. ISBN: 0809295288.
The Health Benefits of Tai Chi Chuan Practice
"How to Avoid Knee Injury in T'ai Chi." By Bill Z. Yang, Ph.D.. T'ai Chi: The International Magazine of T'ai Chi Chuan, Vol. 27, No. 3, June 2003, pp. 40-43.
Lifestyle Advice from Wise Persons
"A Look at the T'ai Chi Hand." By Michael Gilman. Tai Chi International Magazine, Vol. 24, No. 1, February 2000, p. 39-42. "The hands contain over one quarter of all the bones of the body. One sixth of all the muscles of the body are used in hand movements. A single hand movement can involve as many as 50 muscles working together. There are as many as 21,000 sensors of heat, pressure, and pain per square inch of the fingertips. The hands can destroy or heal, cause pleasure or pain."
"Metabolic and cardiorespiratory responses to the performance of wing chun and tai chi chuan exercise." Schneider, D., & Leung, R. International Journal of Sports Medicine: 12,319-322, 1991.
"Psyshotheraputic aspects of the martial arts." Weisner, M., Kutz, I., Kutz, S. & Weisser, D. American Journal of Psychotherapy: 49(1),118-127, 1995.
"Renewal Practices of Chinese Medicine." By Sean Fannin. T'ai Chi, Vol. 25, No. 4, August 2001, pp. 37-39.
Tai Chi Chuan and Health Articles An excellent selection of articles presented by the Northwest Tai Chi Chuan Association.
"T'ai Chi and Musculoskeletal Pain." By Devin J. Starlanyi. T'ai Chi, Vol. 25, No. 4, August 2001, pp. 53-55.
Tai Chi Chuan: A Slow Dance for Health. By John Cheng, MD. "The Physician and Sports Medicine", Volume 27, No. 6, June, 1999. Excellent advice for older persons.
"Tai chi exercise and the elderly." Levandoski, J. L. & Leyshon, G. A. Clinical KJnesiology: 44(2), 39-44, 1990.
Tai Chi for Health and Relaxation
Tai Chi For Life Online Magazine
Tai Chi for Longevity and Health. International Association for Mind-Body Professionals.
Tai Chi for Older People Reduces Falls, May Help Maintain Strength. United States National Institute on Aging May 2, 1996.
Tai Chi - Fountain of Youth. By Frank Petrillo, Jr.
Tai Chi Health and Fitness Benefits
Tai Chi Productions. Dr. Paul Lam, M.D., provides Tai Chi information and instructional videos, DVDs and books.
"T'ai Chi's Cardiovascular Benefits." By Soraya Lingbeek, M.D., Ph. D. T'ai Chi: The International Magazine of T'ai Chi Chuan. Vol. 27, No. 4, August, 2003, pp. 6-9.
"The therapeutic effects of tai chi for the elderly." Ross, M. C. & Presswalla. J. L. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 1998, 45-47.
The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. By Ted J. Kaptchuk, O.M.D.. Chicago, McGraw Hill Contemporary Books, 2nd Edition, 2000. Index, bibliography, appendices, notes, 500 pages. Foreword by Margaret Caudill, M.D., and by Andrew
Weil, M.D. ISBN: 0809228408. MGC. An excellent introduction to traditional Chinese medicine and modern research on the topic.
Working Out, Working Within: The Tao of Inner Fitness Through Sports and Exercise. By Jerry Lynch and Chungliang Al Huang. New York, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1998. 264 pages. ISBN: 0874779138. VSCL.
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