Body Composition Outcomes of Tai Chi and Qigong Practice: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Linda Larkey, Dara James, Michael Belyea, Mihyun Jeong, Lisa L. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Purpose: Meditative movement (MM) practices are increasingly being studied, including examination of the potential for these modalities to contribute to weight management. Methods: A search was conducted for randomized controlled trials testing one or both of two forms of MM, Tai Chi and Qigong, reporting effects on changes in body composition. Data from these studies were extracted and tabled, and a meta-analysis of studies with inactive control conditions was conducted. Risk of bias was assessed, and seven RCTs had a low risk of bias. Sources of bias include publication bias and selection of English only. Results: Publications meeting inclusion criteria yielded 24 studies (N = 1621 participants). Significant improvements in body composition, primarily body mass index, were noted for 41.7% of studies. A synthesis table describes the distribution of design factors, including type of comparison condition (inactive vs. active) and baseline body composition status (whether or not overweight/obese). A meta-analysis was conducted on 12 studies with inactive controls (using a random effects model) finding a small-to-medium treatment effect (SMD = − 0.388, CI = [− 0.732, − 0.044], t = 2.48, p < 0.03) for TC or QG interventions with a high level of heterogeneity. Conclusions: Tai Chi and Qigong show demonstrable effects on body composition, when compared to inactive control conditions. Systematic evaluation and valid conclusions regarding the impact of Tai Chi and Qigong on body composition outcomes will require more targeted study designs and control of comparison conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-501
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Body mass index
  • Meditative movement
  • Qigong
  • Taiji/tai chi
  • Weight management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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