Written by Helen Cooke and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated June 16, 2016

Tai Chi

Abstract and key points

  • Tai chi is a non-combative martial art that combines breathing techniques with sequences of slow graceful movements
  • The is limited evidence that tai chi may increase joint mobility and quality of life (e.g. fatigue)
  • Tai chi has a good safety record
  • Evidence is currently lacking about the effectiveness of Tai chi for supportive cancer care

Tai chi is a non-combative martial art that combines breathing techniques with sequences of slow graceful movements. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘meditation in motion’.

There is some evidence from one systematic review of nine randomized clinical trials that Tai chi may increase joint mobility and handgrip dynamometer strength.

For quality of life the evidence is inconclusive. One systematic review of five RCTS reports concluded that there was no evidence to support tai chi for quality of life-related outcome measures. One systematic review of 13 randomized clinical trials reports evidence that a tai chi/qigong combination may improve health-related quality of life (FACTG) among various cancer populations. The findings of all reviews are however limited by the methodological shortcomings of the included trials.

Only preliminary evidence from individual controlled clinical trials of tai chi is available for systolic blood pressure reduction, improvement of immune function as well as a tai chi/qigong combination for balance performance, improved joint mobility and higher blood flow velocity.

There is therefore no strong evidence about tai chi’s specific effects in cancer patients.

Tai chi has a good safety record, but as it is a moderate form of aerobic exercise, it may be beneficial for people to check with their health practitioner if they have a known heart condition, severe osteoporosis or musculoskeletal difficulties.

Citation Helen Cooke, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Tai Chi [online document]. http://ws.cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Mind-body-interventions/Tai-Chi. June 16, 2016.



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