A review of clinical trials of tai chi and qigong in older adults

West J Nurs Res. 2009 Mar;31(2):245-79. doi: 10.1177/0193945908327529.


Initiation and maintenance of physical activity (PA) in older adults is of increasing concern as the benefits of PA have been shown to improve physical functioning, mood, weight, and cardiovascular risk factors. Meditative movement forms of PA, such as tai chi and qigong (TC & QG), are holistic in nature and have increased in popularity over the past few decades. Several randomized controlled trials have evaluated TC & QG interventions from multiple perspectives, specifically targeting older adults. The purpose of this report is to synthesize intervention studies targeting TC & QG and identify the physical and psychological health outcomes shown to be associated with TC & QG in community dwelling adults older than 55. Based on specific inclusion criteria, 36 research reports with a total of 3,799 participants were included in this review. Five categories of study outcomes were identified, including falls and balance, physical function, cardiovascular disease, and psychological and additional disease-specific responses. Significant improvement in clusters of similar outcomes indicated interventions utilizing TC & QG may help older adults improve physical function and reduce blood pressure, fall risk, and depression and anxiety. Missing from the reviewed reports is a discussion of how spiritual exploration with meditative forms of PA, an important component of these movement activities, may contribute to successful aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Breathing Exercises*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Fitness
  • Postural Balance
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Tai Ji*