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      An evidence map of the effect of Tai Chi on health outcomes

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          This evidence map describes the volume and focus of Tai Chi research reporting health outcomes. Originally developed as a martial art, Tai Chi is typically taught as a series of slow, low-impact movements that integrate the breath, mind, and physical activity to achieve greater awareness and a sense of well-being.


          The evidence map is based on a systematic review of systematic reviews. We searched 11 electronic databases from inception to February 2014, screened reviews of reviews, and consulted with topic experts. We used a bubble plot to graphically display clinical topics, literature size, number of reviews, and a broad estimate of effectiveness.


          The map is based on 107 systematic reviews. Two thirds of the reviews were published in the last five years. The topics with the largest number of published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were general health benefits (51 RCTs), psychological well-being (37 RCTs), interventions for older adults (31 RCTs), balance (27 RCTs), hypertension (18 RCTs), fall prevention (15 RCTs), and cognitive performance (11 RCTs). The map identified a number of areas with evidence of a potentially positive treatment effect on patient outcomes, including Tai Chi for hypertension, fall prevention outside of institutions, cognitive performance, osteoarthritis, depression, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pain, balance confidence, and muscle strength. However, identified reviews cautioned that firm conclusions cannot be drawn due to methodological limitations in the original studies and/or an insufficient number of existing research studies.


          Tai Chi has been applied in diverse clinical areas, and for a number of these, systematic reviews have indicated promising results. The evidence map provides a visual overview of Tai Chi research volume and content.

          Systematic review registration

          PROSPERO CRD42014009907

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          The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13643-016-0300-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 101

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          Interventions for preventing falls in older people living in the community.

          Approximately 30% of people over 65 years of age living in the community fall each year. This is an update of a Cochrane review first published in 2009. To assess the effects of interventions designed to reduce the incidence of falls in older people living in the community. We searched the Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group Specialised Register (February 2012), CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library 2012, Issue 3), MEDLINE (1946 to March 2012), EMBASE (1947 to March 2012), CINAHL (1982 to February 2012), and online trial registers. Randomised trials of interventions to reduce falls in community-dwelling older people. Two review authors independently assessed risk of bias and extracted data. We used a rate ratio (RaR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) to compare the rate of falls (e.g. falls per person year) between intervention and control groups. For risk of falling, we used a risk ratio (RR) and 95% CI based on the number of people falling (fallers) in each group. We pooled data where appropriate. We included 159 trials with 79,193 participants. Most trials compared a fall prevention intervention with no intervention or an intervention not expected to reduce falls. The most common interventions tested were exercise as a single intervention (59 trials) and multifactorial programmes (40 trials). Sixty-two per cent (99/159) of trials were at low risk of bias for sequence generation, 60% for attrition bias for falls (66/110), 73% for attrition bias for fallers (96/131), and only 38% (60/159) for allocation concealment.Multiple-component group exercise significantly reduced rate of falls (RaR 0.71, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.82; 16 trials; 3622 participants) and risk of falling (RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.76 to 0.96; 22 trials; 5333 participants), as did multiple-component home-based exercise (RaR 0.68, 95% CI 0.58 to 0.80; seven trials; 951 participants and RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.64 to 0.94; six trials; 714 participants). For Tai Chi, the reduction in rate of falls bordered on statistical significance (RaR 0.72, 95% CI 0.52 to 1.00; five trials; 1563 participants) but Tai Chi did significantly reduce risk of falling (RR 0.71, 95% CI 0.57 to 0.87; six trials; 1625 participants).Multifactorial interventions, which include individual risk assessment, reduced rate of falls (RaR 0.76, 95% CI 0.67 to 0.86; 19 trials; 9503 participants), but not risk of falling (RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.02; 34 trials; 13,617 participants).Overall, vitamin D did not reduce rate of falls (RaR 1.00, 95% CI 0.90 to 1.11; seven trials; 9324 participants) or risk of falling (RR 0.96, 95% CI 0.89 to 1.03; 13 trials; 26,747 participants), but may do so in people with lower vitamin D levels before treatment.Home safety assessment and modification interventions were effective in reducing rate of falls (RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.97; six trials; 4208 participants) and risk of falling (RR 0.88, 95% CI 0.80 to 0.96; seven trials; 4051 participants). These interventions were more effective in people at higher risk of falling, including those with severe visual impairment. Home safety interventions appear to be more effective when delivered by an occupational therapist.An intervention to treat vision problems (616 participants) resulted in a significant increase in the rate of falls (RaR 1.57, 95% CI 1.19 to 2.06) and risk of falling (RR 1.54, 95% CI 1.24 to 1.91). When regular wearers of multifocal glasses (597 participants) were given single lens glasses, all falls and outside falls were significantly reduced in the subgroup that regularly took part in outside activities. Conversely, there was a significant increase in outside falls in intervention group participants who took part in little outside activity.Pacemakers reduced rate of falls in people with carotid sinus hypersensitivity (RaR 0.73, 95% CI 0.57 to 0.93; three trials; 349 participants) but not risk of falling. First eye cataract surgery in women reduced rate of falls (RaR 0.66, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.95; one trial; 306 participants), but second eye cataract surgery did not.Gradual withdrawal of psychotropic medication reduced rate of falls (RaR 0.34, 95% CI 0.16 to 0.73; one trial; 93 participants), but not risk of falling. A prescribing modification programme for primary care physicians significantly reduced risk of falling (RR 0.61, 95% CI 0.41 to 0.91; one trial; 659 participants).An anti-slip shoe device reduced rate of falls in icy conditions (RaR 0.42, 95% CI 0.22 to 0.78; one trial; 109 participants). One trial (305 participants) comparing multifaceted podiatry including foot and ankle exercises with standard podiatry in people with disabling foot pain significantly reduced the rate of falls (RaR 0.64, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.91) but not the risk of falling.There is no evidence of effect for cognitive behavioural interventions on rate of falls (RaR 1.00, 95% CI 0.37 to 2.72; one trial; 120 participants) or risk of falling (RR 1.11, 95% CI 0.80 to 1.54; two trials; 350 participants).Trials testing interventions to increase knowledge/educate about fall prevention alone did not significantly reduce the rate of falls (RaR 0.33, 95% CI 0.09 to 1.20; one trial; 45 participants) or risk of falling (RR 0.88, 95% CI 0.75 to 1.03; four trials; 2555 participants).No conclusions can be drawn from the 47 trials reporting fall-related fractures.Thirteen trials provided a comprehensive economic evaluation. Three of these indicated cost savings for their interventions during the trial period: home-based exercise in over 80-year-olds, home safety assessment and modification in those with a previous fall, and one multifactorial programme targeting eight specific risk factors. Group and home-based exercise programmes, and home safety interventions reduce rate of falls and risk of falling.Multifactorial assessment and intervention programmes reduce rate of falls but not risk of falling; Tai Chi reduces risk of falling.Overall, vitamin D supplementation does not appear to reduce falls but may be effective in people who have lower vitamin D levels before treatment.
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            The effect of Tai Chi on health outcomes in patients with chronic conditions: a systematic review.

            To conduct a systematic review of reports on the physical and psychological effects of Tai Chi on various chronic medical conditions. Search of 11 computerized English and Chinese databases. Randomized controlled trials, nonrandomized controlled studies, and observational studies published in English or Chinese. Data were extracted for the study objective, population characteristics, study setting, type of Tai Chi intervention, study design, outcome assessment, duration of follow-up, and key results. There were 9 randomized controlled trials, 23 nonrandomized controlled studies, and 15 observational studies in this review. Benefits were reported in balance and strength, cardiovascular and respiratory function, flexibility, immune system, symptoms of arthritis, muscular strength, and psychological effects. Tai Chi appears to have physiological and psychosocial benefits and also appears to be safe and effective in promoting balance control, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness in older patients with chronic conditions. However, limitations or biases exist in most studies, and it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about the benefits reported. Most indications in which Tai Chi was applied lack a theoretical foundation concerning the mechanism of benefit. Well-designed studies are needed.
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              Exercise interventions on health-related quality of life for cancer survivors.

              Cancer survivors experience numerous disease and treatment-related adverse outcomes and poorer health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Exercise interventions are hypothesized to alleviate these adverse outcomes. HRQoL and its domains are important measures for cancer survivorship. To evaluate the effectiveness of exercise on overall HRQoL and HRQoL domains among adult post-treatment cancer survivors. We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), PubMed, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, PEDRO, LILACS, SIGLE, SportDiscus, OTSeeker, and Sociological Abstracts from inception to October 2011 with no language or date restrictions. We also searched citations through Web of Science and Scopus, PubMed's related article feature, and several websites. We reviewed reference lists of included trials and other reviews in the field. We included all randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and controlled clinical trials (CCTs) comparing exercise interventions with usual care or other nonexercise intervention to assess overall HRQoL or at least one HRQoL domain in adults. Included trials tested exercise interventions that were initiated after completion of active cancer treatment. We excluded trials including people who were terminally ill, or receiving hospice care, or both, and where the majority of trial participants were undergoing active treatment for either the primary or recurrent cancer. Five paired review authors independently extracted information on characteristics of included trials, data on effects of the intervention, and assessed risk of bias based on predefined criteria. Where possible, meta-analyses results were performed for HRQoL and HRQoL domains for the reported difference between baseline values and follow-up values using standardized mean differences (SMD) and a random-effects model by length of follow-up. We also reported the SMDs between mean follow-up values of exercise and control group. Because investigators used many different HRQoL and HRQoL domain instruments and often more than one for the same domain, we selected the more commonly used instrument to include in the SMD meta-analyses. We also report the mean difference for each type of instrument separately. We included 40 trials with 3694 participants randomized to an exercise (n = 1927) or comparison (n = 1764) group. Cancer diagnoses in study participants included breast, colorectal, head and neck, lymphoma, and other. Thirty trials were conducted among participants who had completed active treatment for their primary or recurrent cancer and 10 trials included participants both during and post cancer treatment. Mode of the exercise intervention included strength training, resistance training, walking, cycling, yoga, Qigong, or Tai Chi. HRQoL and its domains were measured using a wide range of measures.The results suggested that exercise compared with control has a positive impact on HRQoL and certain HRQoL domains. Exercise resulted in improvement in: global HRQoL at 12 weeks' (SMD 0.48; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.16 to 0.81) and 6 months' (0.46; 95% CI 0.09 to 0.84) follow-up, breast cancer concerns between 12 weeks' and 6 months' follow-up (SMD 0.99; 95% CI 0.41 to 1.57), body image/self-esteem when assessed using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale at 12 weeks (MD 4.50; 95% CI 3.40 to 5.60) and between 12 weeks' and 6 months' (mean difference (MD) 2.70; 95% CI 0.73 to 4.67) follow-up, emotional well-being at 12 weeks' follow-up (SMD 0.33; 95% CI 0.05 to 0.61), sexuality at 6 months' follow-up (SMD 0.40; 95% CI 0.11 to 0.68), sleep disturbance when comparing follow-up values by comparison group at 12 weeks' follow-up (SMD -0.46; 95% CI -0.72 to -0.20), and social functioning at 12 weeks' (SMD 0.45; 95% CI 0.02 to 0.87) and 6 months' (SMD 0.49; 95% CI 0.11 to 0.87) follow-up. Further, exercise interventions resulted in decreased anxiety at 12 weeks' follow-up (SMD -0.26; 95% CI -0.07 to -0.44), fatigue at 12 weeks' (SMD -0.82; 95% CI -1.50 to -0.14) and between 12 weeks' and 6 months' (SMD -0.42; 95% CI -0.02 to -0.83) follow-up, and pain at 12 weeks' follow-up (SMD -0.29; 95% CI -0.55 to -0.04) when comparing follow-up values by comparison group.Positive trends and impact of exercise intervention existed for depression and body image (when analyzing combined instruments); however, because few studies measured these outcomes the robustness of findings is uncertain.No conclusions can be drawn regarding the effects of exercise interventions on HRQoL domains of cognitive function, physical functioning, general health perspective, role function, and spirituality.Results of the review need to be interpreted cautiously owing to the risk of bias. All the trials reviewed were at high risk for performance bias. In addition, the majority of trials were at high risk for detection, attrition, and selection bias. This systematic review indicates that exercise may have beneficial effects on HRQoL and certain HRQoL domains including cancer-specific concerns (e.g. breast cancer), body image/self-esteem, emotional well-being, sexuality, sleep disturbance, social functioning, anxiety, fatigue, and pain at varying follow-up periods. The positive results must be interpreted cautiously due to the heterogeneity of exercise programs tested and measures used to assess HRQoL and HRQoL domains, and the risk of bias in many trials. Further research is required to investigate how to sustain positive effects of exercise over time and to determine essential attributes of exercise (mode, intensity, frequency, duration, timing) by cancer type and cancer treatment for optimal effects on HRQoL and its domains.

                Author and article information

                [1 ]VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, CA USA
                [2 ]VA Evidence-based Synthesis Program (ESP) Center, Los Angeles, CA USA
                [3 ]University of California, Los Angeles, CA USA
                [4 ]Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC), RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA USA
                Syst Rev
                Syst Rev
                Systematic Reviews
                BioMed Central (London )
                27 July 2016
                27 July 2016
                : 5
                27460789 4962385 300 10.1186/s13643-016-0300-y
                © The Author(s). 2016

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: FundRef, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs;
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                © The Author(s) 2016

                Public health

                systematic review, tai chi, evidence map, health


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