The Evidence: Health and Healing Benefits of Tai Chi as Proven by Western Scientific Research

Below are some reviews of evidence for the health and healing benefits of Tai Chi Chuan as recognised in Western medicine as well as the additional health benefits identified in Chinese culture.

From a Western perspective:

As a health exercise, Tai Chi (TC) techniques can be seen as a system of slowly flowing movements and shifts of balance that strengthens the weight-supporting muscles while conditioning the tendons and ligaments of the ankles, knees, hips and spine. This increases their range of movement and makes them more resilient, less prone to injury. The constant weight shifts train balance and body awareness, leading to confident ease of movement within the forms and in every day life.

This is a physical exercise that focuses the mind while conditioning the body. It can help to dissipate stress and therefore reduce stress-related debilities, increase stamina, and strengthen the body and will.

Proper performance of the techniques places certain demands on the body: the sinking of the weight, over time, sends signals to the tissues of the legs to add muscle and bone mass.

The turning of the trunk flexes the spine, producing improved spinal flexibility, release of tension in the muscles around the spine, alleviating imbalances that can lead to back pain while improving blood flow to the discs.

Tai Chi Health Healing Evidence Scientific Research

The techniques conditions the Psoas muscle, a deep muscle of balance and posture that underlies the lower abdominal organs and mediates the relationship of the spine to the pelvis and legs.

Western scientific research has recognised the following benefits of practising Tai Ji Quan: increased oxygen uptakes and utilisation (more efficient breathing), reduced blood pressure, slower declines in cardiovascular power, increased bone density, increased strength and range of motion of joints, greater leg strength, reduced rate of falling in the elderly, greater flexibility, reduced levels of stress hormones during and after practice, improved immune function, and heightened mood states.

To review the health benefits of practising the exercises which are recognised in Western medicine:

  • Strengthens weight-supporting muscles in legs and torso
  • Conditions ligaments and tendons, making them more flexible and resilient and less prone to injury
  • Increases the range of movement in joints
  • Improves balance, body awareness and coordination, and reduces risk of falling in the elderly
  • Improves efficiency in breathing
  • Improves and maintains cardiovascular function and balances blood pressure
  • Increases bone density
  • Relieves some back pain
  • Improves immune function
  • Improves mental health: reduces levels of stress hormones, reduces depression, raises mood.

There are also more articles on Tai Ji Quan Current Research such as Does TC Delay Cell Ageing so take your time to read them.

Additional health benefits identified in Chinese culture

Tai Chi techniques provide health benefits beyond those studied as yet by Western medicine.

In Chinese philosophy and medicine there exists the concept of ‘chi’, a vital force that animates the body. One of the avowed aims of Tai Ji Quan is to foster the circulation of this ‘chi’ within the body, the belief being that by doing so the health and vitality of the person are enhanced. This ‘chi’ circulates in patterns that are closely related to the nervous and vascular system and thus the notion is closely connected with that of the practice of acupuncture and other oriental healing arts.

The techniques condition the sleeves between muscles and nerves, the webs that separate and support the organs, the fascia. The Chi meridians run through the fascia. By conditioning these boundary layers between tissues, the exercises reduce chemical cross-linking, cellular “rust”

While Chi Kung is not Tai Chi Chuan, one of the many attributes of Tai Chi is that it is, amongst other things, a form of Chi Kung. As such, by using correct breathing and mind intention with the movements, health work can be done with Chi. Chi may be directed to a particular part of the body to assist healing there, or it may be moved through the body, eliminating stagnation, smoothing turbulence and increasing flow. Attention can be given to stimulating particular points so as to assist in balancing Yin and Yang Chi.

The turning of the body, in conjunction with deep abdominal breathing, “wrings-out” the organs. This flushes blood out as organs are compressed and allows fresh blood carrying nutrients to flow in when the movement moves on to compressing another part of the torso. This compression and release reduces pockets of stagnation in the various organ systems.

Summary of health and healing benefits of Tai Chi within Chinese culture and medicine

  • Conditions the fascia and reduces chemical cross-linking between tissues thus facilitating the flow of Chi.
  • Massages the internal organs, flushing out waste products and allowing inflow of nutrients.
  • Facilitates the healing action of Chi.
  • Facilitates smooth flow of Chi.
  • Assists in balancing Chi.

To gain the most fitness and health benefit from TC, it is important to practise regularly and frequently. An exercise program suitable for most people’s needs can be designed around its use as the central component. See our page on “Exercise Programs”

Tai Chi is also a Spiritual Journey

Stress Management and Depression

If you'd like to know about our class times and fees, please call us on our central telephone number 9796-1066 or email us through our contact-us form.

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