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Is tai chi beneficial for improving aerobic capacity? A systematic review
  1. M S Lee1,2,
  2. E-N Lee3,
  3. E Ernst2
  1. 1
    Department of Medical Research, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, Daejeon, South Korea
  2. 2
    Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter & Plymouth, Exeter, UK
  3. 3
    Department of Nursing, Dong-A University, Busan, South Korea
  1. Correspondence to Dr M Soo Lee, Department of Medical Research, Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, 461-24, Jeonmin-dong, Yuseong-gu,Daejeon 305-811, South Korea; drmslee{at}


Tai chi has been claimed to generate beneficial effects with respect to a wide range of diseases. The purpose of this systematic review was to evaluate evidence from randomised clinical trials (RCTs) testing the effectiveness of tai chi for increasing aerobic capacity. Systematic searches were conducted on 14 electronic databases without restrictions on population characteristics or the language of publication. The outcome measures considered for inclusion were changes in maximal oxygen consumption as a test for aerobic capacity. Five RCTs met all inclusion criteria. Three RCTs compared the effects of tai chi with no treatment. The meta-analysis failed to show an effect of tai chi on aerobic capacity compared with sedentary controls (n = 151, weight mean difference, ml/kg/min, 0.50, 95% CI −1.14 to 2.15, p = 0.55). Two RCTs compared tai chi with conventional physical exercise including brisk, low intensity and moderate intensity walking, and aerobic exercise. The results show that tai chi was not statistically significantly superior to physical exercise. In conclusion, the existing evidence does not suggest that regular tai chi is an effective way of increasing aerobic capacity.

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  • Funding MSL was supported by Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine (K08010). The study sponsor had no involvements in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, in the writing of the report or in the decision to submit the paper for publication.

  • Competing interests None.