Qigong and Tai Chi as Therapeutic Exercise: Survey of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses Addressing Physical Health Conditions

Altern Ther Health Med. 2019 Sep;25(5):48-53.


Context: Many researchers are interested in the Eastern therapeutic exercise of qigong and tai chi, performed as qigong. A review of systematic studies through April 2010 found evidence supporting tai chi as effective for preventing falls, improving psychological health, and promoting healthy aging.

Objective: The review intended to provide an updated survey of recent systematic reviews to establish the current-2016-level of scientific evidence assessing the therapeutic benefits of qigong exercise for clinical applications related to physical health.

Methods: The data sources included PubMed, SCOPUS, and CINAHL, using the major terms qigong OR tai chi AND review. Studies were included in the review if they (1) were systematic reviews and meta-analyses; (2) had been published as full text in the English language; (3) were published between January 2010 and December 2016; (4) had tai chi or qigong as the primary intervention of interest; (5) addressed a defined, physical-health complaint; and (6) included ≥3 randomized clinical trials. Reviews addressing nonclinical topics, mental health, and cognition were excluded.

Results: The extensive search identified 41 relevant systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Five areas of clinical application were supported. The review showed independent research evidence that was sufficient to support tai chi performed as qigong as a primary intervention for balance training and fall prevention. When compared with more traditional interventions, tai chi was found to have equal, and in some instances, superior effects, as well as cost-effectiveness. In addition, qigong, and tai chi performed as qigong, were found to have a complementary or alternative role in management of cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Parkinson's disease, and cardiac and cardiovascular disorders.

Conclusions: A growing body of evidence supports qigong and tai chi performed as qigong as valid complementary or alternative therapeutic exercises. Many aspects of the clinical study and application in this area remain to be explored.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Qigong*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tai Ji*