Tai chi’s greatest treasure

Imagine that someone is giving you a sales pitch. They claim to have the most amazing product: scientifically proven to reduce stress, combat anxiety, improve balance, heighten bone density, improve lower body strength, lower heart rate, significantly reduce blood pressure and provide you with a sense of overall wellbeing. It’s also pleasant to use.

If you’re like me, this is a product you want. But, in this sceptical age, two responses might pop into your head: “How much does it cost?” and “Isn’t this too good to be true?” These are great questions but they’re easy to dispense with when it comes to the product in question: tai chi.

The answer to the first question — how much it costs — is simple: 10 or so minutes of every day for as long as you want to experience its benefits. The answer to the second — can it really confer these benefits? — is more complex but no less definite.

Hundreds of years of testimony from Chinese practitioners, many of them trained in traditional Chinese and Western medicine, attest to tai chi’s benefits. There is also anecdotal evidence: globalisation has allowed many of us (me included) to encounter sprightly Chinese octogenarians who place high value on their morning tai chi practice.

If this subjective evidence is not enough, thanks to modern science there’s a new type of proof. Many scientific studies in 2011, of 77 randomised controlled trials involving 6410 participants.

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