Tai chi

Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that puts special emphasis on balance and movement. Tai chi involves moving the body slowly and gently. There’s no fast movement or any physical contact.

Practitioners believe that tai chi helps a vital energy called 'qi' (pronounced 'chee') flow freely through the body, which helps to promote good health.

Tai chi is meant to improve the functioning of internal organs, including the lungs and digestive system.

How might tai chi help?

There have been small studies into the benefits of tai chi to improve balance, flexibility and fitness in older people. But further, longer studies are needed to confirm these results.

There have been a few studies on tai chi and Parkinson’s, with mixed results. Some suggest that it can help improve balance and prevent falls better than conventional exercise, while others found no benefits. Larger, more rigorous studies are needed.

Is tai chi safe?

Some precautions may be needed for people who have severe osteoporosis, a hernia or are pregnant.

Tai chi instructors are not currently regulated by law. You will need to check your teacher is registered with a professional body and is insured.

Useful contacts

  • Tai Chi Union for Great Britain
    This is an association of practitioners of recognised styles of Tai Chi Chuan. Contact them to find out more about tai chi, find qualified practitioners and read about how they regulate their members.
  • Tai chi classes may be offered at your local leisure or community centre, so it is worth checking what’s available.
  • Some local Parkinson’s UK groups offer regular exercise sessions, including tai chi classes.

Andy talks tai chi

"What we're trying to learn in tai chi is to move with complete relaxation in our bodies.

"It takes a lot of practice, but you can retrain your body to not tremor."

Last updated March 2013. We review all our information within 3 years. If you'd like to find out more about how we put our information together, including references and the sources of evidence we use, please contact us at publications@parkinsons.org.uk.