Tai Chi and Qigong

Our rating
Tai Chi Question mark: This treatment has not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.
Qigong Question mark: This treatment has not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.

What does this rating mean?

The rating system

  • 3 smiliesThese treatments are very useful. They are strongly supported as effective by scientific evidence.
  • 2 smiliesThese treatments are useful. They are supported by scientific evidence as effective, but the evidence is not as strong.
  • 1 smileyThese treatments are promising and may be useful. They have some evidence to support them, but more evidence is needed to be sure they work.
  • No smiley On the available evidence, these treatments do not seem to be effective.
  • Question markThese treatments have not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.
  • These treatments are not recommended and could be dangerousSafety or other concerns have been raised for the use of these treatments.

What is it?

Tai Chi and Qigong are traditional Chinese exercises which involve slow movements and meditation. They are quite similar as Tai Chi was developed from Qigong.

How does it work?

Tai Chi and Qigong might help to improve mood in many ways: they promote mindfulness and relaxation, they are a form of exercise, and people who practice in a class may have more social contact. 

Some people believe that Qigong helps to cultivate and balance ‘qi’ (chi) or ‘life energy’. This belief is not supported by western medicine.

Is it effective?

There is not much scientific evidence on Tai Chi and Qigong for the treatment of depression. One meta-analysis of multiple studies found some evidence that Qigong may help to reduce depression symptoms, but no evidence that Tai Chi was effective. Not all of the people in these studies had been diagnosed with depression, so it is unclear whether these treatments are effective for people with clinical depression.

Most people who have participated in studies looking at Tai Chi and Qigong have been older adults, so it is unclear whether these treatments are effective for people of other ages. 

Are there any disadvantages?

Tai Chi and Qigong are quite gentle types of exercise and should be suitable for most people.

Where do you get it?

Tai Chi and Qigong classes may be found in the Yellow Pages or by searching online. There are also books and videos available online for people to follow at home.

Recommendation

There is not enough good evidence at this stage to recommend Tai Chi or Qigong as a treatment for depression.

Key references

  • Chou K-L, Lee PWH, Yu ECS, Macfarlane D, Cheng Y-H, Chan SSC, Chi I. Effect of Tai Chi on depressive symptoms amongst Chinese older patients with depressive disorders: A randomized clinical trial. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2004; 1105-1107.
  • Liu X, Clark J, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of Qigong and Tai Chi for depressive symptoms. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2015; 23(4), 516-534.
  • Oh B, Choi SM, Inamori A, Rosenthal D, Yeung A. Effects of qigong on depression: a systemic review. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2013; 134737.

Last updated and reviewed: 1 May 2019