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So much research, so little translation to practice. This journey will be long and challenging, but worth it!

June 23, 2016

While research publication addressing the therapeutic effects of qigong, and tai chi performed as qigong, has grown exponentially over the past three to five years, this upsurge in research does not seem to be trickling through to our tai chi and qigong schools and community programming. In a recent review of the research progress assessing the therapeutic value of tai chi, Dr. P. Harmer, professor of Exercise Science at Willamette University, reported that between Jan 2012 and Oct 2013, 27 review articles addressed 15 different clinical conditions [1]. Dr. Harmer concluded that the disconnect from the translation of research to practice was due to many factors including “too few studies involving specific conditions, small sample sizes, poorly described protocols, inadequate controls, inconsistent intervention characteristics (e.g., dosage, format), and widely varying project lengths and outcome variables (even for the same condition).” He made a clear recommendation for co­ordination and long-­term planning of systematic research agenda. He cited the work of Dr. F. Li, Oregon Research Institute, in fall prevention as a model of a successfully coordinated research agenda. Dr. Li has conducted several studies assessing the effect of the tai chi­ based ‘Moving for Better Balance’ Program. His research uses a standardized intervention consistently across studies. He also provides a well­ defined theoretical framework for explanation of mechanism of effect [2].

While conveying an attitude of guarded optimism for eventual success, Dr. Harmer foresees a long road ahead for those invested in establishing evidence­ based practice. He cautions that: “overall disjointed and inconsistent research approach to examining Tai Ji Quan [sic: performed as qigong] does not provide sufficient grounds for governmental or non­governmental organizations to underwrite comprehensive implementation of Tai Ji Quan for the good of the public’s health.

Concerted, systematic, and coordinated long­term research programs by individual researchers or collaborative groups are critical, if the full potential of Tai Ji Quan to enhance health­related quality of life is to be realized on a broad scale.”

1. Harmer PA. So much research, so little application: Barriers to dissemination and practical implementation of Tai Ji Quan. J Sport Health Sci. 2014 Mar 1;3(1):16­20. PubMed PMID: 25089214; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4114720.

2. Li F. Transforming traditional Tai Ji Quan techniques into integrative movement therapy­<i>Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance.</i>. J Sport Health Sci. 2014 Mar 1;3(1):9­15. PubMed PMID: 25126445; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4127637.

To get through the hardest journey, we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping. –Chinese Proverb

We encourage NQA members to understand EBP (evidence­ based practice), keep abreast of new research as it emerges, and incorporate research into practice. We as the NQA Research and Education Committee wish to support you in that process.