T’ai Chi Gone Viral! The World Reports on Myeong Soo Lee and Edzard Ernst’s Systematic Review

Myeong Soo Lee and  Edzard Ernst received substantial international media attention for their BJSM article: “Systematic reviews of t’ai chi: an overview” (published online, May 16th 2011). In their critical evaluation of 35 systematic reviews, the authors report that T’ai Chi effectively prevents falls and improves psychological health in older adults.

This BJSM feature was picked up by:

This international coverage of Soo Lee and Ernst’s paper is significant for three reasons –

First, it reflects the global interest in practical, and accessible strategies to improve the health of older adults.

But don’t get too excited just yet.

Second, this mainstream attention promotes a more realistic notion of the degree of potential benefits for T’ ai Chi (read: it is not a ‘panacea’). The authors emphasize that more rigorous research is needed to demonstrate that T’ ai Chi significantly reduces the effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis, Parkinson’s Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and cancer. They also suggest that T’ai Chi is not effective as a treatment for cardiovascular disease.

But don’t give up hope!

Third, some of the articles accurately promote that even moderate exercise, 2 times a week has significant benefit on health and well being (although degree of benefits increase in correlation to exercise frequency).

So in short, while T’ ai Chi may not be a ‘wonder activity’ that cures all sickness, even a small dose reduces falls risk and improves mental health in older adults.

What is your experience? Comment below or on Twitter (we are @BJSM_BMJ).

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