Introduction: Tai chi may have beneficial effects with respect to balance, falls and non-vertebral fractures. The purpose of this systematic review was to evaluate evidence from controlled clinical trials testing the effectiveness of tai chi for osteoporosis.
Methods: Systematic searches were conducted on 20 electronic databases. The outcome measures considered for inclusion were changes in bone parameters.
Results: Five randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and two controlled clinical trials (CCT) met all inclusion criteria. In postmenopausal women, one RCT found tai chi to be superior for loss of bone mineral density (BMD) compared with sedentary lifestyle, while two other RCTs found no differences between tai chi and exercises or calcium supplementation for BMD. The meta-analysis showed no significant effect of tai chi on BMD change at the spine compared with no treatment in postmenopausal women. One RCT failed to show favorable effects of tai chi compared with resistance training (RT) for total hip BMD in elderly women. A further RCT compared tai chi with RT on bone metabolism and reported favorable effects compared with RT in the elderly.
Conclusion: The evidence for tai chi in the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis is not convincing. More rigorous research seems warranted.