Tai Chi for Chronic Illness Management: Synthesizing Current Evidence from Meta-Analyses of Randomized Controlled Trials
The American Journal of Medicine, February 2021
by Liye Zou, PhD , Tao Xiao, PhD , Chao Cao, MPH, Ulf Ekelund, PhD, Yikyung Park, ScD, Lin Yang, PhD , et.al
An umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) was conducted to evaluate the existing evidence of Tai Chi as a mind-body exercise for chronic illness management. MEDLINE/PubMed and Embase databases were searched from inception until March 31, 2019, for meta-analyses of at least two RCTs that investigated health outcomes associated with Tai Chi intervention. Evidence of significant outcomes (P value < 0.05) was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system.
This review identified 45 meta-analyses of RCTs and calculated 142 summary estimates among adults living with 16 types of chronic illnesses. Statistically significant results (P value < 0.05) were identified for 81 of the 142 outcomes (57.0%), of which 45 estimates presenting 30 unique outcomes across 14 chronic illnesses were supported by high (n = 1) or moderate (n = 44) evidence. Moderate evidence suggests that Tai Chi intervention improved physical functions and disease-specific outcomes compared with nonactive controls and improved cardiorespiratory fitness compared with active controls among adults with diverse chronic illnesses. Between-study heterogeneity and publication bias were observed in some meta-analyses.
This review synthesized evidence from more than 200 meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials with 142 unique health outcomes.
Moderate evidence supports that Tai Chi improves physical and mental health among adults with cancer, neurological disorders, metabolic diseases, cardiopulmonary diseases, musculoskeletal diseases, and cognitive-psychological disorders.
Future research should investigate the biological pathways and accelerate the application of Tai Chi as a viable and low-impact method of exercise for managing comorbidity.