Tai Chi Chuan: Mind-Body Practice or Exercise Intervention? Studying the Benefit for Cancer Survivors

Tai chi chuan (TCC) has been used as a mind-body practice in Asian culture for centuries to improve wellness and reduce stress and has recently received attention by researchers as an exercise intervention. A review of the English literature on research in TCC published from 1989 to 2006 identified 20 prospective, randomized, controlled clinical trials in a number of populations, including elderly participants (7 studies), patients with cardiovascular complications (3 studies), patients with chronic disease (6 studies), and patients who might gain psychological benefitfrom TCC practice (2 studies). However, only the studies of TCC in the elderly and 2 studies of TCC for cardiovascular disease had adequate designs and size to allow conclusions about the efficacy of TCC. Most (11 studies) were small and provided limited information on the benefit of TCC in the settings tested. There is growing awareness that cancer survivors represent a population with multiple needs related to physical deconditioning, cardiovascular disease risk, and psychological stress. TCC as an intervention may provide benefit to cancer survivors in these multiple areas of need based on its characteristics of combining aspects ofmeditation and aerobic exercise. However, little research has been conducted to date to determine the benefit of TCC in this population. We propose a model to study the unique characteristics of TCC compared to physical exercise that may highlight characteristic features of this mind-body intervention in cancer survivors.