Tai Chi for cancer survivors: A systematic review toward consensus-based guidelines

Lin Yang, Kerri Winters-Stone, Benny Rana, Chao Cao, Linda E. Carlson, Kerry S. Courneya, Christine M. Friedenreich, Kathryn H. Schmitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


To manage acute, long-term, and late effects of cancer, current guidelines recommend moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic and resistance exercise. Unfortunately, not all cancer survivors are able or willing to perform higher intensity exercise during difficult cancer treatments or because of other existing health conditions. Tai Chi is an equipment-free, multicomponent mind–body exercise performed at light-to-moderate intensity that may provide a more feasible alternative to traditional exercise programs for some cancer survivors. This systematic review evaluated the therapeutic efficacy of Tai Chi across the cancer care continuum. We searched MEDLINE/PubMed, Embase, SCOPUS, and CINAHL databases for interventional studies from inception to 18 September 2020. Controlled trials of the effects of Tai Chi training on patient-reported and objectively measured outcomes in cancer survivors were included. Study quality was determined by the RoB 2 tool, and effect estimates were evaluated using the Best Evidence Synthesis approach. Twenty-six reports from 14 trials (one non-randomized controlled trial) conducted during (n = 5) and after treatment (after surgery: n = 2; after other treatments: n = 7) were included. Low-level evidence emerged to support the benefits of 40–60 min of thrice-weekly supervised Tai Chi for 8–12 weeks to improve fatigue and sleep quality in cancer survivors. These findings need to be confirmed in larger trials and tested for scaling-up potential. Insufficient evidence was available to evaluate the effects of Tai Chi on other cancer-related outcomes. Future research should examine whether Tai Chi training can improve a broader range of cancer outcomes including during the pre-treatment and end of life phases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7447-7456
Number of pages10
JournalCancer medicine
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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