The Effects of Tai Chi Chuan Relaxation and Exercise on Stress Responses and Well-Being: An Overview of Research
The rationale of this article is to review, analyze, and discuss studies concerning the role of Tai Chi in stress management and well-being, linking those studies to research on exercise, yoga, and relaxation with regard to physiological and psychological wellness. All studies reported in PsychLit and Medline between 1996 and 1999 directly related to the subject, plus other studies relevant for the analysis, are addressed in this review. Studies reviewed in this article characterize Tai Chi as a form of moderate exercise. Although Tai Chi may not be suitable for achieving aerobic fitness, it may enhance flexibility and overall psychological well-being. Cognitively, there are indications that Tai Chi exercise may lead to improvements in mood. However, it is not clear whether the positive effects of Tai Chi are due solely to its relaxation and meditation component, or whether they are the consequence of various peripheral factors, since it is known that stress reduction often occurs when we indulge in activities we find pleasurable and satisfying. An important finding is that all studies on the benefits of Tai Chi for senior adults have revealed positive results.