Tai Chi may be efficient for healthy adults to improve the cardiorespiratory fitness, but there is no systematic evaluation for its effectiveness. The objective of this study was to systematically assess the effectiveness of Tai Chi on cardiorespiratory fitness in healthy adults. Seven electronic databases were searched from their inception to October 2013. The controlled trails including randomized controlled trial (RCT), non-randomized controlled trial (NRCT), self-controlled trial (SCT), and cohort study (CS) testing Tai Chi exercise against non-intervention control conditions in healthy adults that assessed any type cardiorespiratory fitness outcome measures were considered. Two reviewers independently performed the selection of the studies according to predefined criteria. The risk of bias was assessed using Cochrane criteria. RevMan 5.2 software was applied for data analysis. Twenty studies (2 RCTs, 8 NRCTs, 3 SCTs, and 7 CSs) with 1868 participants were included, but most of them belonged to low methodological quality. The results of systematic review showed that Tai Chi exercise had positive effect on majority outcomes of cardio function (Blood pressure: n = 536, SPB SMD = -0.93, 95% CI -1.30 to -0.56, P < 0.00001; DBP SMD = -0.54, 95% CI -0.90 to -0.18, P < 0.00001; heart rate at quiet condition: n = 986, SMD = -0.72, 95% CI -1.27 to -0.18, P = 0.010; stroke volume: n = 583, SMD = 0.44, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.61, P < 0.00001; cardio output: n = 583, MD = 0.32 L/min, 95% CI 0.08 to 0.56, P = 0.009), lung capacity (FVC at quiet condition: n = 1272, MD = 359.16 mL, 95% CI 19.57 to 698.75, P = 0.04 for less than one year intervention, and MD = 442.46 mL, 95% CI 271.24 to 613.68, P<0.0001 for more than one year intervention; V·O2peak: n = 246, SMD = 1.33, 95% CI 0.97 to 1.70, P < 0.00001), and cardiorespiratory endurance (O2 pulse at quiet condition: n = 146, SMD = 1.04; 95% CI 0.69 to 1.39; P < 0.00001; stair test index at quiet condition: n = 679, SMD = 1.34, 95% CI 0.27 to 2.40, p = 0.01). No adverse events were reported.
The results are encouraging and suggest that Tai Chi may be effective in improving cardiorespiratory fitness in healthy adults. However, concerning the low methodological quality in the included studies, more larger-scale well-designed trails are needed till the specific and accurate conclusions can be perorated.