International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 487–501 | Cite as

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

  • Linda K. LarkeyEmail author
  • Dara James
  • Michael Belyea
  • Mihyun Jeong
  • Lisa L. Smith



Meditative movement (MM) practices are increasingly being studied, including examination of the potential for these modalities to contribute to weight management.


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.


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.


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.


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


Author Contributions

All authors have read and approved the final version of the manuscript and agree with the order of presentation of the authors. Last author, Smith, is 2nd senior author.


This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

For this type of study, formal consent is not required.


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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Center for Health Promotion and Disease PreventionArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA
  2. 2.College of Nursing and Health InnovationArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA
  3. 3.School of Nutrition and Health PromotionArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA

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