The question emerged at a recent scientific conference hosted jointly by Harvard Medical School and the Osher Center of Integrative Medicine, leaving the answer far from straightforward.
Tai Chi Sifu Loretta Wollering
The "Science of Tai Chi & Qigong as Whole-person Health" Conference took place in Boston September 18 -19, 2024, and delivered compelling evidence that Tai Chi & Qigong (TCQ for short) offer substantial benefits to individuals suffering from either a single health issue or with multimorbidity – the presence of two or more chronic illnesses. A multitude of studies showcased TCQ's effectiveness in improving various health aspects, including cardiovascular functions, hypertension, COPD, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis, osteoarthritis, depression, stress, anxiety, cognition, immunity, fall prevention, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, weight loss, waistline reduction, and more. Impressively, TCQ proves to be on par with, if not superior to, conventional exercises, physical therapy, and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for a specific health condition not to mention TCQ can improve other health issues simultaneously. Even more remarkable is its enduring impact on health, persisting even after discontinuation. In contrast to many medications, TCQ exhibits no side effects and can seamlessly complement existing medical treatments. In essence, TCQ should be considered as “medication in motion”.
However, the question lingers: how much TCQ should one incorporate into their routine? Enthusiastic practitioners of Tai Chi might suggest dedicating as much time as one's schedule permits, as it is an enjoyable exercise. Nonetheless, many individuals, including retirees, have busy calendars and seek guidance on the minimum recommended practice duration.
In exploring this issue, Josh Henkin, the founder of the Sandbag Training system and a Tai Chi practitioner, discussed the dosage dilemma with me following our attendance at the conference. You can find our discussion in the video below.
Several presentations during the conference shed light on the hours of training participants underwent during clinical trials, with variations in both the hours and frequency of training. As a general guideline, engaging in TCQ for approximately three sessions a week, lasting 30 to 60 minutes each, should suffice unless individuals are contending with severe health conditions. There's a Chinese saying, "Da Bing Dan Lian, Xiao Bing Xiao Lian, and Wei Bing Xian Lian" which translates to practicing extensively when dealing with major health issues, reducing practice for less serious conditions, and incorporating practice as a preventive measure even when not afflicted by illness. Josh confirmed that during his initial exposure to TCQ, he committed to daily practice sessions lasting at least an hour and sometimes two hours, aiming to address the aftermath of problematic surgeries. As his condition improved and became more manageable, he gradually scaled back the time and frequency of his practice.