General Research

Revealing the Neural Mechanisms Underlying the Beneficial Effects of Tai Chi: A Neuroimaging Perspective

The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China and Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China and The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA


Outcomes: Tai Chi Chuan (TCC), a traditional Chinese martial art, is well-documented to result in beneficial consequences in physical and mental health. TCC is regarded as a mind-body exercise that is comprised of physical exercise and meditation. Favorable effects of TCC on body balance, gait, bone mineral density, metabolic parameters, anxiety, depression, cognitive function, and sleep have been previously reported. However, the underlying mechanisms explaining the effects of TCC remain largely unclear. Recently, advances in neuroimaging technology have offered new investigative opportunities to reveal the effects of TCC on anatomical morphologies and neurological activities in different regions of the brain. These neuroimaging findings have provided new clues for revealing the mechanisms behind the observed effects of TCC. In this review paper, we discussed the possible effects of TCC-induced modulation of brain morphology, functional homogeneity and connectivity, regional activity and macro-scale network activity on health. Moreover, we identified possible links between the alterations in brain and beneficial effects of TCC, such as improved motor functions, pain perception, metabolic profile, cognitive functions, mental health and sleep quality. This paper aimed to stimulate further mechanistic neuroimaging studies in TCC and its effects on brain morphology, functional homogeneity and connectivity, regional activity and macro-scale network activity, which ultimately lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects of TCC on human health.

Qigong in Cancer Care: Theory, Evidence-Base, and Practice

D’Youville College, 361 Niagara St, Buffalo, NY, USA


Outcomes:  Background – The purpose of this discussion is to explore the theory, evidence base, and practice of Qigong for individuals with cancer. Questions addressed are: What is qigong? How does it work? What evidence exists supporting its practice in integrative oncology? What barriers to wide-spread programming access exist? Results – Qigong is a gentle, mind/body exercise integral within Chinese medicine. Theoretical foundations include Chinese medicine energy theory, psychoneuroimmunology, the relaxation response, the meditation effect, and epigenetics. Research supports positive effects on quality of life (QOL), fatigue, immune function and cortisol levels, and cognition for individuals with cancer. There is indirect, scientific evidence suggesting that qigong practice may positively influence cancer prevention and survival. No one Qigong exercise regimen has been established as superior. Effective protocols do have common elements: slow mindful exercise, easy to learn, breath regulation, meditation, emphasis on relaxation, and energy cultivation including mental intent and self-massage. Conclusions – Regular practice of Qigong exercise therapy has the potential to improve cancer-related quality of life (QOL) and is indirectly linked to cancer prevention and survival. Wide-spread access to quality Qigong in cancer care programming may be challenged by the availability of existing programming and work force capacity.

A Longitudinal Study About the Effect of Practicing Yan Xin Qigong on Medical Care Cost with Medical Claims Data

New Medical Science Research Institute, NY, USA and Chongqing Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chongqing, China, and Vancouver Yan Xin Life Science & Technology Center, Vancouver, B. C., Canada and School of Statistics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA and Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA


Outcomes: We use 7-year longitudinal medical claims data and statistical models to study the relationship between practicing Yan Xin Qigong (YXQG), a traditional advanced Chinese Qigong that has been integrated with modern science and technology, and practitioners’ medical care utilization and the associated costs. We find that for the sampled practitioners, their average monthly medical visits and the associated costs are significantly lower after practicing YXQG. After controlling for other factors, the longer of practicing YXQG, the more likely there was a fall in average medical visits and medical costs. The main findings are robust to various estimation methods. The results showed that after practicing YXQG, the average number of monthly medical visits decreased by 45% and the 95% confidence interval was [38%, 51%], and the average monthly cost decreased by36% with a 95% confidence interval of [24%, 47%].

Tai Chi and Qi Gong: In Depth

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Outcomes: “Practicing tai chi may help to improve balance and stability in older people and in those with Parkinson’s disease, reduce back pain and pain from knee osteoarthritis, and improve quality of life in people with heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses. Tai chi and qi gong may ease fibromyalgia pain and promote general quality of life.  Qi gong may reduce chronic neck pain, but study results are mixed. Tai chi also may improve reasoning ability in older people.”

Evidence Map of Tai Chi

Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs (US)


Outcomes: “Tai Chi has been investigated as a treatment for a number of clinical indications and outcomes. The systematic review identified 107 Tai Chi systematic studies. Statistically significant effects pooled across existing studies were reported for hypertension, falls outside of institutions, cognitive performance, osteoarthritis, COPD, pain, balance confidence, depression, and muscle strength. However, review authors cautioned that firm conclusions cannot be drawn due to methodological limitations in the original studies and/or an insufficient number of existing research studies.”

A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi,

The Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi

Arizona State University College of Nursing and Healthcare Innovation, University of North Carolina


Outcomes: Study Inclusion Criteria — RCTs reporting on the results of Qigong or Tai Chi interventions and published in peer reviewed journals published from 1993–2007. Research has demonstrated consistent, significant results for a number of health benefits in RCTs, evidencing progress toward recognizing the similarity and equivalence of Qigong and Tai Chi. Seventy-seven articles met the inclusion criteria. The 9 outcome category groupings that emerged were: bone density (n=4), cardiopulmonary effects (n=19), physical function (n=16), falls and related risk factors (n=23), Quality of Life (n=17), self-efficacy (n=8), patient reported outcomes (n=13), psychological symptoms (n=27), and immune function (n=6).

The effect of Tai Chi on four chronic conditions—cancer, osteoarthritis, heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic review and meta-analyses, Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia, Canada


Outcomes: “Meta-analyses showed that Tai Chi improved or showed a tendency to improve physical performance outcomes, including 6-min walking distance (6MWD) and knee extensor strength, in most or all four chronic conditions. Tai Chi also improved disease-specific symptoms of pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis OA. The results demonstrated a favorable effect or tendency of Tai Chi to improve physical performance and showed that this type of exercise could be performed by individuals with different chronic conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure (HF) and osteoarthritis (OA)”.

The health benefits of tai chi , Harvard Medical School


Outcomes: “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. “

Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis,

Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2893078/,

Outcomes: In conclusion, the results of these studies suggest that Tai Chi may be associated with improvements in psychological well-being including reduced stress, anxiety, depression and mood disturbance, and increased self-esteem. High-quality, rigorous, prospective, well-controlled randomized trials with appropriate comparison groups and validated outcome measures are needed to further understand the effects of Tai Chi as an intervention for specific psychological conditions in different populations. Knowledge about the physiological and psychological effects of Tai Chi exercise may lead to new complementary and alternative medical approaches to promote health, treat chronic medical conditions, better inform clinical decisions and further explicate the mechanisms of successful mind-body medicine.

Research Charts – Effect of Tai Chi on human health and well-being


Research Charts – Effect of Qigong on human health and well-being