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Jeff Sutherland

Twice the Energy with Half the Stress

Health Effects of Tai Chi

As reported previously, chi is a powerful force that can be used to lift Japanese executives of major companies 6 feet in the air and throw them 20 feet across a room without touching them, as in the photo above. It can also be used as a healing force and I recommend everyone try Chi Lel, a form of medical Tai Chi, that anyone can perform, even when ill and unable to move.

The Archives of Internal Medicine published an article this month which reviews health effects of Tai Chi. It is too bad someone won’t study the effects of a real Chi master. It probably would not be publishable because it would not be explainable by conventional medicine. Lifting the editor up in the air and bouncing him off the wall without touching him would be interpreted as fraud. They would have to send in Randi the magician as European medical journals did a few years ago to prove some unusual data was fake. The fact that Randi would be bounced off the wall like everyone else would be suppressed as aberrant data unpublishable in a reputable journal. Actually, I think Randi is smart enough to avoid messing with a real Chi master.

But I digress. A force that can throw a person across a room can have a dramatic effect on internal organs when focused properly, either to heal or to maim, depending on intent. Trying to heal yourself with it is a worthy effort, particularly when it improves balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness as a side effect. Why not direct that time at the gym towards a more profound effort?

The effect of Tai Chi on health outcomes in patients with chronic conditions: a systematic review.

Wang C, Collet JP, Lau J.

Arch Intern Med. 2004 Mar 8;164(5):493-501

OBJECTIVE: To conduct a systematic review of reports on the physical and psychological effects of Tai Chi on various chronic medical conditions.

DATA SOURCES: Search of 11 computerized English and Chinese databases. STUDY SELECTION: Randomized controlled trials, nonrandomized controlled studies, and observational studies published in English or Chinese.

DATA EXTRACTION: Data were extracted for the study objective, population characteristics, study setting, type of Tai Chi intervention, study design, outcome assessment, duration of follow-up, and key results.

DATA SYNTHESIS: There were 9 randomized controlled trials, 23 nonrandomized controlled studies, and 15 observational studies in this review. Benefits were reported in balance and strength, cardiovascular and respiratory function, flexibility, immune system, symptoms of arthritis, muscular strength, and psychological effects.

CONCLUSIONS: Tai Chi appears to have physiological and psychosocial benefits and also appears to be safe and effective in promoting balance control, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness in older patients with chronic conditions. However, limitations or biases exist in most studies, and it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about the benefits reported. Most indications in which Tai Chi was applied lack a theoretical foundation concerning the mechanism of benefit. Well-designed studies are needed.