Champaign, IL—Tai chi has been part of traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, and now doctors in the United States are recognizing the physiological and psychological benefits of the exercise. According to Master Pixiang Qiu, a veteran tai chi instructor and director of the Chinese Wushu Research Center of Shanghai University of Sports, tai chi is practiced in over 150 countries and promotes cardiovascular health, bone mineral density, balance, and flexibility. “In fact, many cardiologists prescribe tai chi as an adjunct therapy for treatment of heart problems or as preventive therapy,” says Qiu.
In Tai Chi Illustrated (Human Kinetics, 2012), Qiu and coauthor Weimo Zhu explain the benefits of tai chi and the implications of the exercise on a variety of health conditions.
“There is promising evidence in support of using tai chi to reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis, and even larger benefits in pain reduction from tai chi than for other popular interventions, such as using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),” says Qiu. “Tai chi is also beneficial for improving balance and physical function in those with osteoarthritis.” Studies have also found that tai chi intervention improves pain, fatigue, mood, depression, vitality, and disability index of people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Bone Mineral Density
“Research indicates that tai chi may improve risk factors associated with low bone mineral density in postmenopausal women,” says Qiu.
Tai chi has been found to be a beneficial complement to traditional cancer treatment. “Tai chi helped improve self-esteem and health-related quality of life, functions in activities of daily life, and increased shoulder range of motion in cancer survivors,” Qiu says. “In addition, tai chi has been shown to increase immune response and psychological function of cancer survivors.”
“Studies have concluded that tai chi may be a beneficial adjunct therapy for patients with cardiovascular disease,” Qiu explains. Those with cardiovascular disease have reported a reduction in blood pressure and an increase in exercise capacity when practicing tai chi.
Balance and Control
Tai chi improves balance in older adults, and the exercise has been found to prevent falls in pre-frail elderly while also reducing their fear of falling. According to Qiu, there is also favorable evidence to support the use of tai chi for patients with Parkinson's disease.
Tai Chi Illustrated offers a comprehensive look at the mind–body exercise with full-color photo sequences demonstrating the most popular tai chi routines. Photos are accompanied by numbered steps that explain how to execute each move, making the exercises accessible for beginning and intermediate audiences alike.
For more information, see Tai Chi Illustrated.