Let’s give it up for the “soft power” of tai chi! In our book, anything that relieves pain, improves mood, and leads to a better quality of life deserves a standing ovation. The gentle martial art may be as effective as physical therapy at reducing the pain of knee osteoarthritis (known generally as “arthritis”), and it offers additional mood and quality-of-life benefits. In one 12-week study, participants did either physical therapy or tai chi classes twice a week. One year later, both groups reported significant pain relief, but the tai chi group also reported less depression and a higher quality of life. According to Chinese philosophy, tai chi encourages a proper flow of chi (pronounced “chee”), an energy force that moves continually throughout the body. In terms of measurable effects, tai chi also improves muscle strength and coordination, and promote feelings of calm — all of which help to relieve pain and give you a sunnier outlook. If you’re interested in trying tai chi for arthritis, talk with your doctor first, and keep in mind that there’s no standard training or licensing for practitioners. Ask around for recommendations, and look for an experienced instructor who can accommodate your needs. For instance, tai chi can be adapted for people in wheelchairs.