Member Login
Sign Up

Older Adults


This document contains information about recent research on the effectiveness of qigong and/or taiji (or tai chi) in helping older adults. The first section is our summary of all the studies we found on qigong and/or taiji interventions. We believe that qigong and taiji have very similar benefits. We believe the terms are interchangeable. The sections that follow are the individual studies that make up the summary.

Older Adults
Older adults are considered to be 60 and older by the World Health Organization.  By 2030 one out of every six persons in the world will be 60 years old or older.  Normal aging does involve changes in the physical body, but the health of an individual is only loosely tied to their age.  The following articles describe the effects of tai chi and qigong on older adults, and show that this exercise has benefits for strength, bone density, balance, and well-being.  

● Tai chi improves performance of certain standardized tests for walking and strength, whereas qigong improves the ability to stand on one leg and balance.

● One study found that Chinese mind-body exercise (qigong and tai chi) improved problem solving, attention, working memory, and inhibition. Memory  improvements were consistent whether the people did tai chi or qigong, and they found more benefits if they did more than 5 times per week.  The language spoken during the training- English or Chinese- did not make a difference.

● One study found that the tai chi improved performance on  timed walking tests in people with arthritis in the knees.  The 6 minute walk test measures the distance a person can walk in 6 minutes, and those who did tai chi walked farther in 6 minutes than the group that did not exercise.  The results of this study are very encouraging for those with arthritis and knee pain.

● One study measured the electrical activity in muscles while walking to see if tai chi improved muscle function.  The results showed that the muscles showed less fatigue and better muscle function in the tai chi group during walking.  The improvements in the tai chi group were similar to those found in other types of rehabilitation practices.

● Two studies looked at the effect of mind-body and meditative movement exercise on the quality of life and depression in older adults without mental illness. A significantly larger increase of quality of life  and reduction of depressive symptoms was found in tai chi and qigong over yoga/Pilates groups.  The researchers felt that tai chi and qigong have potential to improve quality of life and sleep, and reduce depression and  fear of falling.

● One study looked at the effects of tai chi on walking speed in older adults that are considered frail.  The FRAIL OLDER ADULT is one that already has weakness, slowness in movement, easy exhaustion and poor endurance. The participants in the tai chi program showed moderate improvement in the walking speed which is an indicator of reduced frailty.

● A total of 1282 older adults  aged 62 to 83 years with depression symptoms, frailty or chronic medical illnesses were  included in one review.  The study found that qigong significantly improved the physical mobility of the adults studied, with the highest improvement found in those that did qigong at least 3 times per week.

Study 1
Wang, et al, found 27 studies with 2580 older adults that met the inclusion criteria. The results  of studies of tai chi, baduanjin, and qigong were reviewed. They found that tai chi improved the  scores on the timed up and go test, grip strength, and lower leg strength, specifically knee  extension and ankle flexion more than qigong or baduanjin.. Qigong was effective in  improving single-leg stance and balance over the other practices.  

The effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine-based exercise on physical  performance, balance and muscle strength among older adults: a systematic review with  meta-analysis.
Wang C, Liang J, Si Y, Li Z, Lu A.
Aging Clin Exp Res. 2021 Aug 22. doi:  10.1007/s40520-021-01964-2. Online ahead of print.PMID: 34420189  

Study 2
Ren, et al, found 29 studies and included them in a meta analysis to determine the effects of  Chinese mind body exercise on executive brain functions including memory and shifting.  Randomized controlled trials with at least one outcome measure of Chinese mind body  exercises on executive brain function in adults of mean age more than 50 years old with either  intact cognition or only mild cognitive impairment were included. They found beneficial effects  of Chinese mind body exercises on executive brain function. The positive effects on brain function occurred  regardless of type (tai chi, qigong), frequency of group classes (less than 2 time, 3-4 time, more  than 5 times), session time (less than 45 min, 46-60 min), total training time (between 150 to  300 min, greater than 300 min), and length of the practice (4-12 week, 13-26 week, and more  than 26 week). In addition, more frequent participation in both group classes and home practice  sessions (more than 5 times per week) resulted in more beneficial effects. No difference  existed between those provided in English or Chinese.  

Effects of Chinese Mind-Body Exercises on Executive Function in Middle-Aged and  Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
Ren FF, Chen FT, Zhou WS,  Cho YM, Ho TJ, Hung TM, Chang YK.
Front Psychol. 2021 May 21;12:656141. doi:  10.3389/fpsyg.2021.656141. eCollection 2021.PMID: 34093345  

Study 3
You, et al, studied the effects of tai chi in 11 trials of 603 participants with knee arthritis.  The results of the study showed that the tai chi group was associated with better  performance in 6-minute walk test, time up and go test and arthritis physical function than  the control group. This analysis provided evidence that tai chi could be an excellent  physical training strategy for improving walking function and posture control in older adults with  knee arthritis. They noted tai chi can be used as an addition to reliable physical training  strategy for walking function upgrading and balance control improvements for older patients  with knee oarthritis.  

Effects of Tai Chi exercise on improving walking function and posture control in elderly  patients with knee osteoarthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
You Y, Liu J,  Tang M, Wang D, Ma X.
Medicine (Baltimore). 2021 Apr 23;100(16):e25655. doi:  10.1097/MD.0000000000025655.PMID: 33879749  

Study 4
Tai chi practice has been recommended for reducing falls in older adults, but a gap exists in our  understanding of the exact mechanisms underlying tai chi practice benefits. Hu, et al,  used muscle electrical activity to study neuromuscular activity during walking in elders practicing tai  chi and normal subjects. They found a delay in muscle fatigue in the tai chi group,  which results in increased strength of muscular contraction during walking. Tai chi was found to  have similar benefits to traditional rehabilitation practices.  

Benefits of tai ji quan practice on neuromuscular functions in older adults: A  Systematic Review and meta-analysis.
Hu Y, Kattan C, Kontos D, Zhu W, Hernandez  ME.
Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2021 Feb;42:101295. doi:  10.1016/j.ctcp.2020.101295. Epub 2020 Dec 16.PMID: 33341582  

Study 5
The aim of Weber, et al, in their systematic meta-analytical review was to quantify the effects of  different mind-body interventions involving meditative movements on relevant psychological  health outcomes in older adults without mental disorders  Personal rating of quality of life, depressive  symptoms, fear of falling and sleep quality were recorded. Thirty-seven randomized controlled trials including  3224 participants were included in this analysis. A significantly larger increase of quality of life  and decreased depressive symptoms was found in tai chi and qigong over yoga/Pilates groups. The study  found that mind-body exercises involving meditative movements may serve as an opportunity to  improve psychological health domains such as quality of life, depressive symptoms, fear of  falling, and sleep for those over 59 years of age.  

Effects of Mind-Body Interventions Involving Meditative Movements on Quality of Life,  Depressive Symptoms, Fear of Falling and Sleep Quality in Older Adults: A  Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis.
Weber M, Schnorr T, Morat M, Morat T,  Donath L.
Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 9;17(18):6556. doi:  10.3390/ijerph17186556.PMID: 32916879  

Study 6
Buto, et al, found fifteen studies of six different complementary therapies with the number of  frail participants ranging from 18 to 311. The most common therapy was tai chi. The level of  evidence regarding improvements in balance and mobility was moderate. There was evidence  (at a low level) regarding the effect of Tai chi on improving walking speed, gait speed,  functional range, and quality of life. For the other complementary therapies it was not possible to determine effects due to the limited number of studies on each.  

Effect of complementary therapies on functional capacity and quality of life among  prefrail and frail older adults: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials.
Buto  MSS, de Oliveira MPB, Carvalho C, Vassimon-Barroso V, Takahashi ACM.
Arch  Gerontol Geriatr. 2020 Aug 21;91:104236. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2020.104236. Online  ahead of print.PMID: 32860990  

Study 7
The objective of the Gou, et al, study was to review updated evidence to find the effectiveness  of internal qigong practice on quality of life, depressive symptoms, and self-confidence among  community-dwelling older adults with chronic disease. The article's reviews spanned dates from  2008 to 2018. A total of 13 random control studies with 1340 participants were included in this  review. The meta-analysis found a significant effect in favor of internal qigong on the quality-of life measures compared to controls. The findings of the study suggest a potential use of qigong  as an additional activity for chronic disease management.  

Effectiveness of internal Qigong on quality of life, depressive symptoms and self efficacy among community-dwelling older adults with chronic disease: A systematic  review and meta-analysis.
Gouw VXH, Jiang Y, Seah B, He H, Hong J, Wang W.
Int J  Nurs Stud. 2019 Nov;99:103378. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2019.06.009. Epub 2019 Jun  28.PMID: 31450083  

Study 8

The purpose of Chang, et al, review was to systematically assess the effects of qigong exercise on physical and psychological health outcomes in older adults. A total of 1282 older adults  aged 62 to 83 years with depressive symptoms, frailty or chronic medical illnesses were  included in this review. The meta-analysis showed that qigong exercise resulted in significantly  improved physical ability compared with active control of usual care. The effects of studies with  3 times per week qigong showed the greatest effect on physical mobility in older adults.  

Physical and Psychological Health Outcomes of Qigong Exercise in Older Adults: A  Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
Chang PS, Knobf T, Oh B, Funk M.
Am J Chin  Med. 2019;47(2):301-322. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X19500149. Epub 2019 Mar  4.PMID: 30827152