An Evidence Map of the Effect of Tai Chi on Health Outcomes

Published in: Systematic Reviews, 2016

Posted on RAND.org on August 24, 2016

by Michele R. Solloway, Stephanie L. Taylor, Paul G. Shekelle, Isomi M. Miake-Lye, Jessica M. Beroes, Roberta M. Shanman, Susanne Hempel

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BACKGROUND: This evidence map describes the volume and focus of Tai Chi research reporting health outcomes. Originally developed as a martial art, Tai Chi is typically taught as a series of slow, low-impact movements that integrate the breath, mind, and physical activity to achieve greater awareness and a sense of well-being. METHODS: The evidence map is based on a systematic review of systematic reviews. We searched 11 electronic databases from inception to February 2014, screened reviews of reviews, and consulted with topic experts. We used a bubble plot to graphically display clinical topics, literature size, number of reviews, and a broad estimate of effectiveness. RESULTS: The map is based on 107 systematic reviews. Two thirds of the reviews were published in the last five years. The topics with the largest number of published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were general health benefits (51 RCTs), psychological well-being (37 RCTs), interventions for older adults (31 RCTs), balance (27 RCTs), hypertension (18 RCTs), fall prevention (15 RCTs), and cognitive performance (11 RCTs). The map identified a number of areas with evidence of a potentially positive treatment effect on patient outcomes, including Tai Chi for hypertension, fall prevention outside of institutions, cognitive performance, osteoarthritis, depression, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pain, balance confidence, and muscle strength. However, identified reviews cautioned that firm conclusions cannot be drawn due to methodological limitations in the original studies and/or an insufficient number of existing research studies. CONCLUSIONS: Tai Chi has been applied in diverse clinical areas, and for a number of these, systematic reviews have indicated promising results. The evidence map provides a visual overview of Tai Chi research volume and content.

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