Tai Chi & Weight Loss: Weight Loss Potential, Practice Frequency, and Other Factors

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

group of people practice Tai Chi Chuan in a park
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If you are trying to lose weight and are considering all of your exercise options, you might have wondered if Tai Chi is a viable form of exercise. We wanted to know if Tai Chi was just generally good for physical health or if it could be considered a good form of exercise to help shed those extra pounds – and so we investigated!

Is Tai Chi good for weight loss? Yes, Tai Chi is good for weight loss. However, it is important to note that weight loss with Tai Chi will be slow and steady, as you will not burn a high number of calories per workout. Regular Tai Chi sessions, when paired with a healthy low-calorie diet, can indeed help with weight loss, muscle toning, and core strength development.

Unfortunately – and you probably know this already – weight loss is a tricky thing. Whether you can lose weight and how much weight you can lose depends on a number of factors. Your diet and exercise routine are undoubtedly the two most important factors to pay attention to when trying to lose weight.

Of course, you are here to learn more about Tai Chi and weight loss, and we took the time to find out whether it is a viable option or not. Find out what we learned about this ancient martial art and how effective it is as part of a weight loss program below.

The Main Physical Health Benefits of Tai Chi

young woman doing a taichi
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Not only does Tai Chi assist in the fight against extra fat, but it is also said to be great for quelling the negative symptoms of mental health issues and depression too. The mental health concerns it is most commonly known to help with include the likes of anxiety, OCD, and depression.

Tai Chi is not an aerobic workout and will, therefore, not elevate the heart rate extensively. An elevated heart rate is something that people aim for when doing cardio exercise to lose weight. In most instances, the heart rate is kept elevated for around 20 minutes per workout session in order to see consistent weight loss.

This does not mean that Tai Chi cannot help with weight loss through the burning of calories. Many people like to include Tai Chi as part of their weight loss program as the slow-paced, gentle, stretching movements help to strengthen and tone all major muscle groups.

This means that doing Tai Chi will help you to improve your structural and core strength as well as acquire stronger, toned, and sculpted muscles. Building muscle certainly does burn calories, and this form of exercise will undoubtedly provide good definition to your slimming physique.

The main physical benefits of a Tai Chi workout are:

  • Improved structural strength,
  • Increased core strength and definition,
  • Improved balance,
  • Increased flexibility,
  • Developed coordination,
  • A more centered and calm frame of mind.

While Tai Chi movements are slow and simple, they require durable muscle strength to carry out. This is because each of the movements may need to be held and maintained for several seconds to several minutes at a time.

Weight loss without muscle toning is not ideal. Coupling Tai Chi with a whole food diet with low-calorie content will ensure that you start slimming down at a healthy pace and look great while doing so.

Tai Chi and Weight loss

Lose weight concept scale
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Does Tai Chi Burn Calories?

Most people on a weight loss mission will know that burning calories (and limiting the number of calories consumed) is the only way to lose weight. While Tai Chi is not the most aerobic form of exercise out there, you would be wrong to assume that it provides no calorie burning benefits. Tai Chi does help burn calories. It just doesn’t burn quite as many calories as running does, for instance.

So, How Many Calories Does Tai Chi Burn?

Some professional Tai Chi resources say that a 1-hour Tai Chi session is the equivalent of a steady-paced 1-hour walk. The average 120-pound person can expect to burn around 250 calories in a Tai Chi session. A 150-pound person can burn about 300 calories in an hour.

This is not a bad calorie burn rate, but it is important to know that everyone’s metabolism is different and that some might burn more than others, depending on their current weight and their level of exertion.

A viable addition to your weight loss program

It is quite safe to say that when compared with cycling, running, or extreme aerobic classes, Tai Chi does not match up. These high energy sports or exercises are designed for maximum calorie burning. But that doesn’t make Tai Chi useless in your weight loss goals.

This form of martial art provides a few added physical health benefits that make it a viable option to include as part of any weight loss program. The benefits include improved coordination and flexibility, as well as enhanced endurance, stamina, and muscle strength. These are all essential parts of a workout routine – if you want to slim down and tone up in a healthy way that is. While Tai Chi is not the fastest or most effective way to burn calories, pairing it with other aerobic exercises can help you to improve your weight loss strategy and see better results.

For instance, you could attend a Tai Chi class a few evenings a week and a spinning class once a week, for a good weight loss workout combination. If your goal is to shed weight as quickly as possible through high-energy exercise classes and exaggerated calorie limiting, you can expect your weight loss to be short-lived. If you want long-term results, you must go about it in the correct manner.

How Often Should I Practice Tai Chi to Lose Weight?

Young man practicing traditional  Chinese Tai Chi
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How often you do Tai Chi really depends on your weight loss goals and how much time you have available to you on a daily or weekly basis. If you want to see good results, it is recommended to practice Tai Chi daily for around 20 minutes per day. This will help you to see physical results quicker, but will also help you to learn and become more confident with the required movements.

If you are attending weekly sessions, 2 to 3 sessions per week would be the ideal amount of time to spend on your Tai Chi workouts. Most Tai Chi classes vary from 45 minutes to 60 minutes, depending on the instructor. Of course, you can practice your Tai Chi every day for a few minutes and combine this with a few classes (or sessions) each week. This will provide the best possible results.

Tai Chi Fitness Goals

Everyone’s fitness goals are different. What are your fitness goals and can Tai Chi help you to achieve those? This is one way of deciding if Tai Chi is the right exercise option for you. While some people just want to shed weight as quickly as possible (and in any way possible), others want to lose weight the healthy way. This would be losing weight while building muscle tone and strength too. The latter is the healthier of the two fitness goals.

Woman praticing tai chi chuan at sunset
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A Tai Chi workout offers the fitness goal seeker the following:

  • A full body workout. Did you know that absolutely all major muscle groups are used in a Tai Chi workout? That means that your entire body is used for the workout. To practice, Tai Chi is to get a full body workout.
  • Reduced levels of stress. Stress is the number one cause of disease and mental problems. There have been over 40 studies carried out over the years (you can read more on them here at Biomedcentral) which show that doing Tai Chi helps to improve psychological wellbeing through the active reduction of stress levels. The less stress the human body has to deal with, the healthier it seems to be.
  • Muscle building. A session of Tai Chi each week allows a person to tone, build, and sculpt a better physique in just a few months. As each of the muscle groups develops, you should start to notice a difference in the shape of your figure.
  • Plenty of time for constructive meditation. Life gets busy, and often, one just needs a few moments to gather their thoughts and escape their daily responsibilities. Meditation is often recommended. Tai Chi helps with just that; providing a form of mediation. It requires a quiet, calm, and centered mind – which is ideal for those who need a bit of quiet time.

All in all

Doing any form of exercise will help you to lose weight, especially if you aren’t prone to doing any exercise right now. Just like all forms of exercise, Tai Chi can assist with weight loss. For it to be effective, it must be practiced regularly, and it must also be combined with a healthy low-calorie diet. If you are looking to lose weight in a healthy way while building muscle and core strength, Tai Chi is a viable exercise option for you.

Woman praticing tai chi chuan in the gym Chinese
Ulza / Shutterstock.com

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.