Practicing Tai Chi had lower energy metabolism than walking but similar health benefits in terms of aerobic fitness, resting energy expenditure, body composition and self-perceived physical health

Complement Ther Med. 2016 Aug;27:43-50. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2016.05.006. Epub 2016 May 20.


Objective: To examine the effects of Tai Chi and walking training on aerobic fitness, resting energy expenditure (REE), body composition, and quality of life; as well as analyzing the energy metabolism during exercises, to determine which one had better advantage in improving health status.

Methods: Three hundred seventy-four middle-aged Chinese subjects who were recruited from nine geographic areas in Sha Tin were randomized into Tai Chi, walking, or control groups at area level. The 12-week (45min per day, 5days per week) Tai Chi or brisk walking training were conducted in respective intervention groups. Measures were performed at baseline and end of trial. Another 30 subjects were recruited to compare the energy metabolism between practicing Tai Chi and walking.

Results: The between-group difference of VO2max was 3.3ml/min/kg for Tai Chi vs. control and 3.7ml/min/kg for walking vs. control (both P<0.001). BMI, skinfold thicknesses, and SF-12 physical component scores all improved significantly compared with the control group (all P<0.01). Tai Chi had higher effect on improving REE-VO2 and REE-kilocalorie expenditure than walking. Regarding to energy metabolism test, the self-paced walking produced approximately 46% higher metabolic costs than Tai Chi.

Conclusion: Practicing Tai Chi consumes a smaller amount of energy metabolism but similar health benefits as self-paced brisk walking.

Keywords: Body composition; Clinical trial; Mind-body exercise; Physical activity; SF-12; VO(2)max.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Rest / physiology
  • Self Concept
  • Tai Ji / methods
  • Walking / physiology*