Research on T'ai Chi Ch'uan

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© 2002, Thomas M. Krapu, Ph.D., All rights reserve


Summary Of Research On T'ai Chi Ch'uan


T'ai Chi Ch'uan is often translated from Chinese as the "Supreme Ultimate Martial Art". In addition to being a self defense art, current research indicates that T'ai Chi Ch'uan is a weight bearing and moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise (what IS tcc). Practice of T'ai-Chi Ch'uan can improve balance, reduce falls and increase leg strength. It also lowers stress hormones, enhances respiratory and immune function and promotes emotional well-being. One summary of research can be found in (Sandlund and Norlander, 2000). And more specifically regarding the following areas:


Improved strength, mobility, balance, endurance (Tse & Bailey, 1992)

Significant improvement in balance maintained (Wolfson, et al.,1993 and 1996)

Significant improvement in balance among Parkinson Disease patients. (Hackneya & Earhart, 2008)

Other balance related studies (Judge, et al., 1993)

Benefits for Specific Medical Conditions

Significant improvement in balance among Parkinson Disease patients. (Hackneya & Earhart, 2008) (also listed under Balance)

Most recommended aerobic exercise for coronary artery disease (Ng 1992) (also listed under Cardiovascular)

For rheumatoid arthritis (Kirstens,et al., 1991) (also listed under Weight Bearing Exercise)

And Dementia (Gibb, et al., 1997


Lowers resting blood pressure (Sun, 1994), (Sun, et al., 1996), (Young, 1999)

Low to moderate intensity exercise (Zhou, 1984)

Safe exercise for individuals at high risk for cardiovascular disease (Schneider & Leung 1991)

May delay decline of cardiorespiratory function in older adults (Lai, et al., 1995)

May be prescribed as suitable aerobic exercise for older adults (Lai, et al., 1993)

Most recommended aerobic exercise for coronary artery disease (Ng 1992)

In relation to recovery from heart attack (Channer, et al., 1996)

Other cardiovascular related studies (Gong, et al., 1981), (Lan, et al., 1996)

Elderly or Aging Populations

General studies (Ross & Preswalla, 1998), (Sun, 1994), (Lan, et al., 1998), (Zhou, 1982)

Immune Response (Blood T-Cells)

Marked increase during and after practice (Sun, et al., 1989). Increase after 16 week program (Irwin, et al, (2007).


Mood States (Self Reports)

Reduced tension, anxiety fatigue, depression and confusion (Jin 1989)

Improved mood states, reduction of anxiety states (Jin 1992)

Reduced Anxiety (Chen & Sun 1997)

Other Self Report studies (Kutner, et al., 1997), (Blinde & McClung, 1997)

Reduced Falls

Reduced falls by up to 47%, reduced fear of falling (Wolf, et al., 1993,and 1996, and 1997), (Henderson, 1998) , (Myers & Weiner, 1996), (Province, et al, 1995) 

Preventing Falls (Carbary, 1991), (Smith, 1998), (Kessenich, 1998)


Increased efficiency in use of ventilatory volume (Brown, et al., 1989)

Enhanced ventilary capacity without cardiovascular stress (Brown et al, 1995)

Efficient use of ventilatory volume, efficient breathing patterns (Schneider & Leung, 1991)

Medical Tribune News Service article discussing research led by Dr. Jin-Shin Lai of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei.

Stress Hormones (Salivary Cortisol Levels)

Significant drop during and after practice (Jin 1989, Jin 1992)

Weight Bearing Exercise

No exacerbation in joint symptoms of individuals with RA (Kirstens,et al., 1991)

Alternative exercise therapy as part of Rehabilitation Program (Kirstens, et al., 1991)

Increased joint flexibility (Sun, 1994 and 1996)

Other Benefits Referenced

Relaxation therapy for chronically ill (Jin 1992)

Therapeutic action for diminished range of motion (Kirstens, et al., 1991)

Reduced blood pressure, improved muscle relaxation and flexibility (Chen & Sun 1997), (Sun 1994 and 1996)

And Dementia (Gibb, et al., 1997)

Other General or Summary Studies

Other studies (Kirsteins, 1998), (La Forge, 1997), (Lam, 1998), (Lutz, 1996), (Sandlund and Norlander, 2000), Achiron, et al., (1997), Chewning (2000a), Chewning (2000b), Bottomley (2000)

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Research References

Achiron A, et al. Electrical sensation during Tai-Chi practice as the first manifestation of multiple sclerosis. Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 1997 Dec; 99(4): 280-281. CIT. IDS: PMID: 9491306 UI: 98152006

Blinde, E.M. & McClung, L. R. Enhancing the physical and social self through recreational activity: Accounts of individuals with physical disabilities. Physical Activity Quarterly. 1997 Oct Vol 14(4): 327-344. Abstract

Bottomley, J. (2000). The Use of T'ai Chi as a Movement Modality in Orthopaedics. Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Clinics of North America, September, pp. 361-373 Full Article (ocr errors)

Brown DD, Mucci WG, Hetzler RK, Knowlton RG. Cardiovascular and ventilatory responses during formalized T'ai Chi Chuan exercise. Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport. 1989;60:246-250.Abstract

Brown DR, Wang Y, Ward A, et al. Chronic effects of exercise and exercise plus cognitive strategies. Med Sci Sports Exer. 1995;27:765-775. CIT. IDS: PMID: 7674883 UI: 95405217 Abstract

Carbary, LJ. How to help prevent falls. J Pract Nurs. 1991 Jun; 41 (2): 13-4

Channer KS, Barrow D, Barrow R, Osborne M, Ives G. Changes in hemodynamic parameters following T'ai Chi Chuan and aerobic exercise in patients recovering from acute myocardial infarction. Postgraduate Medical journal 1996;72:349-351. CIT. IDS: PMID: 8758013 UI: 96318925 Abstract

Chen, W.; Sun, W. Tai Chi Chuan, an alternative form of exercise for health promotion and disease prevention for older adults in the community. International Quarterly of Community Health Education. 1997 Vol 16(4) 333-339

Chewning, B., Yu, T., & Johnson, J (2000a) T'ai Chi: Ancient Exercise for Contemporary Life. ACSM Health and Fitness Journal. March/April, (4), Number 2. Full Article

Chewning, B., Yu, T., & Johnson, J (2000b) T'ai Chi: Effects on Health. ACSM Health and Fitness Journal. May/June, (4), Number 3. Full Article

Gibb H, et al. A therapeutic programme for people with dementia. Int J Nurs Pract. 1997 Sep; 3(3): 191-199. CIT. IDS: PMID: 9391353 UI: 98052837

Gong LS et al. Changes in heart rate and electrocardiogram during taijiquan exercise. Chinese Medical journal ; 1981:94(9) 589-592.

Hackneya, M. E. & Earhart, G. M. (2008) Tai Chi improves balance and mobility in people with Parkinson disease. Posture and Gait. Published online 01 April 2008.(Abstract, Full Article)

Henderson NK, et al. The roles of exercise and fall risk reduction in the prevention of osteoporosis. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 1998 Jun; 27(2): 369-387. Review. CIT. IDS: PMID: 9669143 UI: 98333750

Irwin, M. R., Olmstead, R., Oxman, M. N. (2007) Augmenting Immune Responses to Varicella Zoster Virus in Older Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Tai Chi. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 55 (4), 511–517. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2007.01109.x (summary)

Jin P. Changes in heart rate, noradrenaline, cortisol and mood during T'ai Chi. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 1989;33 (2): 197-206. CIT. IDS:
PMID: 2724196 UI: 89258574 Abstract

Jin P. Efficacy of t'ai-chi, brisk walking, meditation, and reading in reducing mental and emotional stress. J Psychosom Res. 1992 May; 36 (4): 361-370. CIT. IDS: PMID: 1593511 UI: 92277480 Abstract

Judge JO, Lindsey C, Underwood M, Winsemius D. Balance improvements in older women: effects of exercise training. Phys Ther. 1993 Apr; 73 (4):254-262. CIT. IDS: PMID: 8456144 UI: 93205751

Kessenich, CR. Tai Chi as a method of fall prevention in the elderly. Orthop Nurs. 1998 Jul-Aug; 17 (4): 27-9

Kirsteins AE, Dietz F, Hwang SM. Evaluating the safety and potential use of a weight-bearing exercise, tai-chi chuan, for rheumatoid arthritis patients. American Journal of Phys Med and Rehab ; 1991 Jun; 70 (3):136-141. CIT. IDS: PMID: 2039615 UI: 91248435

Kirsteins A Tai-Chi Chuan. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1998 Apr; 79(4): 471. No abstract available. CIT. IDS: PMID: 9552121 UI: 98211848

Kutner NG Barnhart H Wolf SL McNeely E Xu T. Self-report benefits of tai chi practice by older adults. J of Gerentology . 1997 52 (5): 242-46. CIT. IDS: PMID: 9310093 UI: 97455881

La Forge R Mind-body fitness: encouraging prospects for primary and secondary prevention. J Cardiovasc Nurs. 1997 Apr; 11(3): 53-65. Review. CIT. IDS: PMID: 9095454 UI: 97249568

Lai JS, Wong N4K, Lan C, Chong CK, Lien IN. Cardiorespiratory responses of t'ai chi chuan practitioners and sedentary subjects during cycle ergometry. J Formosan Med Assoc. 1993 Oct;92(10):894-899. CIT. IDS:
PMID: 7908571 UI: 94198625 Abstract

Lai JS, Lan C, Wong MK, Teng SH. Two-year trends in cardiorespiratory function among older tai-chi chuan practitioners and sedentary subjects. J Am Geriatric Soc. 1995; 43:1222-1227. CIT. IDS: PMID: 7594155 UI: 96046716 Abstract

Lam P New horizons ... developing tai chi for health care. Aust Fam Physician. 1998 Jan; 27(1-2): 100-101. No abstract available. CIT. IDS: PMID: 9503718 UI: 98164467

Lan C, et al. Cardiorespiratory function, flexibility, and body composition among geriatric Tai Chi Chuan practitioners. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1996 Jun; 77(6): 612-616. CIT. IDS: PMID: 8831482 UI: 96428379

Lan C Lai JS Chen SY Wong MK. Twelve-month tai chi training in the elderly: its effects on health and fitness. Med & Sci in Sports & Exer. 1998 30 (3): 345-51 CIT. IDS: PMID: 9526879 UI: 98186075

Lutz S The benefits of Tai Chi. Beginnings. 1996 Apr; 16(4): 3. No abstract available. CIT. IDS: PMID: 8715985 UI: 96360526

Myers, E. R. & Weiner, G. I. Injury Prevention: Keeping Old Bones Whole. Harvard Health Letter. 21(11); September 1996. Abstract

Ng RK. Cardiopulmonary exercise: a recently discovered secret of t'ai chi. Hawaii Medical journal. 1992 Aug; 51 (8): 216-217. CIT. IDS: PMID: 1399544 UI: 93014874

Province MA, Hadley EC, Hornbrook MC, et al. The effects of exercise on falls in elderly patients. A preplanned meta-analysis of the FICSIT Trials. Frailty and injuries: cooperative Studies of Intervention Techniques. JAMA. 1995;273:13411347. CIT. IDS: PMID: 7715058 UI: 95230871 Abstract

Ross MC Preswalla JL. The therapeutic effects of tai chi for the elderly. J of Gerontol Nurs. 1998 24(2):45-7.

Sandlund, E. S. and Norlander, T. The Effects of Tai Chi Chuan Relaxation and Exercise on Stress Responses and Well-Being: An Overview of Research. International Journal of Stress Management, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2000 Full Article

Schneider D, Leung R. Metabolic and cardiorespiratory responses to the performance of wing chun and t'ai-chi chuan exercise. Int J of Sports Med. 1991;12(3):319-23. Abstract

Smith, CE. Preventing falls in the elderly. Am Fam Physician. 1998 Apr 1; 57 (7): 1497-8.

Sun XS, Xu Y, Xia Yj. Determination of E-rosette-forming lymphocytes in aged subjects with Taichiquan exercise. Int J of Sports Med 1989;10:217-219.

Sun, W.Y. Impact of a Tai Chi Chuan Program on the Health of Among Older Adults. Student Monograph. 12(1):73-80, July 1994. Abstract

Sun, W. Y.; Dosch, M.; Gilmore, G.; Pemberton, W.; Scarseth, T. Effects of a Tai Chi Chuan program on Hmong American older adults. Educational Gerontology. 1996 Mar Vol 22(2) 161-167 (Same as previous citation, published in a different periodical, see Sun, 1994)

Tse S, Bailey DM. T'ai Chi and postural control in the well elderly. Am J Occ Ther. 1992;46:295-300.

Wolf SL, Kutner NG, Green RC, McNeely E. The Atlanta FICSIT study: two exercise interventions to reduce frailty in elders. J Am Geriatric Soc. 1993 Mar; 41 (3): 329-332.

Wolf SL, Barnhart HX, Kutner NG, McNeely E, Coogler C, Xu T. Reducing frailty and falls in older persons: an investigation of T'ai Chi and computerized balance training. J Am Geriatric Soc. 1996; 44:599-600. CIT. IDS: PMID: 8617895 UI: 96208898 Abstract

Wolf SL, et al. Exploring the basis for Tai Chi Chuan as a therapeutic exercise approach. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1997 Aug; 78(8): 886-892. CIT. IDS: PMID: 9344312 UI: 98002997

Wolf SL, et al. The effect of Tai Chi Quan and computerized balance training on postural stability in older subjects. Atlanta FICSIT Group. Frailty and Injuries: Cooperative Studies on Intervention Techniques. Phys Ther. 1997 Apr; 77(4): 371-381. CIT. IDS: PMID: 9105340 UI: 97259220

Wolfson L, Whipple R, Judge J, Amerman P, Derby C, King M. Training balance and strength in the elderly to improve function. J Am Geriatric Soc. 1993 Mar; 41 (3): 341343. CIT. IDS: PMID: 8440862 UI: 93179676

Wolfson L, Whipple R, Derby C, Judge J, King M, Amerman P, Schmidt L Smyers D. Balance and strength training in older adults: intervention gains and T'ai Chi maintenance. J Am Geriatric Soc. 1996;44:498-506. CIT. IDS: PMID: 8617896 UI: 96208899 Abstract

Young, D. R., Missing Title, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 1999; 47:277-284 Summary Article

Zhou DH. Preventive geriatrics: an overview from traditional Chinese medicine. American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 1982;10:32-39.

Zhou D, Shephard Rj, Plyley Mj, Davis GM. Cardiorespiratory and metabolic responses during Tai Chi Chuan exercise. Canadian Journal of Applied Sport Sciences. 1984 Mar; 9 (1): 7-10. CITATION IDS: PMID: 6705129 UI: 84156904 Abstract

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© 2002, Thomas M. Krapu, Ph.D., All rights reserved.

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