A review of scientific literature suggests that there is strong evidence of beneficial health effects of tai chi and qi gong, including for bone health, cardiopulmonary fitness, balance, and quality of life. Both tai chi and qi gong (also known as qigong) have origins in China and involve physical movement, mental focus, and deep breathing. Because of the apparent similarities between tai chi and qi gong, the researchers reviewed the literature on both practices together. The review was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.
Researchers from the Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi (Santa Barbara, California), Arizona State University, and the University of North Carolina analyzed 77 articles reporting the results of 66 randomized controlled trials of tai chi and qi gong. The studies involved a total of 6,410 participants. A majority of the studies compared tai chi or qi gong with a nonexercise control group, but some included a comparison group that practiced other forms of exercise, while others included both exercise and nonexercise groups to evaluate the effects of tai chi and qi gong. Of the many outcomes identified by the reviewers, current research suggests that the strongest and most consistent evidence of health benefits for tai chi or qi gong is for bone health, cardiopulmonary fitness, balance and factors associated with preventing falls, quality of life, and self-efficacy (the confidence in and perceived ability to perform a behavior). Evidence is mixed, according to the review, about tai chi or qi gong's effects on psychological factors and patient-reported outcomes (reports from patients of symptoms related to disease).
The reviewers concluded that the evidence is sufficient to suggest that tai chi and qi gong are a viable alternative to conventional forms of exercise. They also noted that because of the similarities in philosophy and critical elements between tai chi and qi gong, the outcomes can be analyzed across both types of studies.
Jahnke R, Larkey L, Rogers C, et al. A comprehensive review of health benefits of qigong and tai chi. American Journal of Health Promotion.;24(6):e1–e25.2010