Tai Chi: Movement for Health Benefits

Families, Food and Fitness January 06, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF

Author: Jamie Goffena, M.S., Food, Nutrition and Health Education, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension

If the word exercise strikes fear in your heart, consider trying Tai Chi to increase your physical activity level. Tai Chi is an ancient martial art that is now practiced for health improvement. Tai Chi combines low-impact movement with mental focus making it an ideal activity for inactive people to begin moving their bodies more. Beginners start with simple movements that progress to more difficult.

Tai Chi involves slow and gentle movement of body weight and deep breathing. The only equipment needed is comfortable clothes and flat, flexible shoes. Suitable for all ages, Tai Chi can be done inside or outside, alone or with a group. Although one can learn by a video or book, learning with an instructor is most beneficial because the instructor can observe one’s technique and guide one’s progress while preventing injury.

Research has indicated that people who practice Tai Chi several times weekly may receive many health benefits such as:

picture of man doing tai chi
  • Improved balance
  • Strengthened muscles
  • Flexibility
  • Stress relief
  • Boosted immunity
  • Pain relief from arthritis and fibromyalgia
  • Improved mental focus
  • Reduced risk of falling for elderly
  • Improved breathing capacity
  • Improved cardio-vascular health
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better sleep quality
  • Improved sense of well being

Before beginning Tai Chi, as with any exercise program, consult with your physician if you have a chronic health condition.

For more information read Tai Chi: An Introduction.


Journal of Physical Activity and Health. (2008; 5:445-455). Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance—Development of a Community-Based Falls Prevention Program. Li F, Peter Harmer P, Mack KA, Sleet D, Fisher KJ, Kohn MA, Lisa M. Millet LM, Xu J, Yang T, Sutton B, Tompkins Y.

Blackwell Publishing Ltd. (2005, June 28). Tai Chi Can Reduce Falls In Older People, Says New Research. Science Daily. Retrieved October 20, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050627233059.htm.

New England Journal of Medicine. (2010, 363:743-754, August 19). A Randomized Trial of Tai Chi for Fibromyalgia. Chenchen Wang, M.D., M.P.H., Christopher H. Schmid, Ph.D., Ramel Rones, B.S., Robert Kalish, M.D., Janeth Yinh, M.D., Don L. Goldenberg, M.D., Yoojin Lee, M.S., and Timothy McAlindon, M.D., M.P.H. Retrieved October 22, 2010 from http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa0912611.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.