Tai chi & Qigong have been part of eastern culture for thousands of years and has slowly made its way into the western world. If you are new to the idea of tai chi or qigong, they have their origins as martial arts and have been utilized as both a way of activity and mindfulness. Tai chi involves a series of large sweeping movements, shifting of one’s body weight and prolonged holds to promote both mobility and strengthening. It also incorporates mindfulness and a focus on the present.
Qigong focuses on the movement of energy within the body known as qi (chee) to promote health, wellness and longevity. It too involves the same low impact movements, weight shifting and mindfulness as tai chi. While they may sound like some sort of esoteric rituals, the recorded benefits of both qigong & tai chi have been well documented over the past decade. Here are a few things that they can help improve and manage:
Improved Balance: Due to the large sweeping, positional holds, and weight shifting one’s balance is not only challenged but can also provide someone the ability to recover from a loss of balance. It has been shown in a recent 2018 study, the incidence in falls in people 65 and older over a 6-month time had significantly reduced.
Heart & Lung Health: The slow and rhythmic movements in conjunction with deep, controlled breathing has shown improvements in blood pressure and heart rate. Another study had found it to improve feelings of breathlessness and fatigue.
Arthritis Management: The repetitive shifting of weight over joints have shown to improve the quality of the life of participants. In addition, there have been documented results of decreased pain and improvement in function (stair climbing, walking etc.)
Strengthening: The use of large muscle groups and maintenance of posture and form provide increases in strength and endurance. In a study conducted in 2016 found significant strength gains were made after a 12 weeks tai chi program in individuals with knee osteoarthritis.
Look into your community programs to see if they offer any group classes so that you can experience the benefits yourself! Discuss with your PT or health care team to see if it is right for you!
Jahnke R, Larkey L, Rogers C, Etnier J, Lin F. A comprehensive review of health benefits of qigong and tai chi. Am J Health Promot. 2010;24(6): e1-e25.
Lan C, Lai J-S, Chen S-Y, Wong M-K. Tai Chi Chuan to improve muscular strength and endurance in elderly individuals: A pilot study. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2000;81(5):604-607. doi:10.1016/s0003-9993(00)90042-x.
Li F, Harmer P, Fitzgerald K, et al. Effectiveness of a Therapeutic Tai Ji Quan Intervention vs a Multimodal Exercise Intervention to Prevent Falls Among Older Adults at High Risk of Falling. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2018;178(10):1301. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.3915.
Reid K, Price L, Harvey W, Driban J, Fielding R, Wang C. Changes in leg muscle strength and power after Tai Chi exercise in patients with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. 2016;24. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2016.01.776
Tousignant M, Corriveau H, Roy P-M, Desrosiers J, Dubuc N, Hébert R. Efficacy of supervised Tai Chi exercises versus conventional physical therapy exercises in fall prevention for frail older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Disability and Rehabilitation. 2012;35(17):1429-1435. doi:10.3109/09638288.2012.737084.