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Tai Chi Helps Chronic Heart Failure Patients


Two hours of tai chi per week led to improvements in mood, daily exercise, and quality of life among people with chronic heart failure, according to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine (April 25). Tai chi is a meditative exercise that has proved helpful in patients with various health conditions, ranging from heart disease to arthritis, cognitive decline, depression, osteoporosis, and menopause, among others.

Tai chi can improve a sense of well-being

Tai chi is a type of exercise that originated as a martial art in ancient China. The practice has developed into a low-impact, aerobic form of physical activity that involves slow gentle movements, deep breathing, and meditation.

The new study, which was conducted by Gloria Y. Yeh, MD, MPH, of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, and her colleagues, involved 100 outpatients who had systolic heart failure. Participants were randomly assigned to attend either education sessions or tai chi exercise sessions twice weekly, one hour each, for 12 weeks.

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At the end of the 12 weeks, the patients who had practiced tai chi showed greater improvements in their self-confidence to perform certain physical activities, daily activity, feelings of well-being, and quality of life when compared with the patients who were in the education group. Patients in the tai chi group did not, however, show any improvement in the six-minute walk test when compared with the education group.

A previous study, also from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School and published in 2008 in Medicine and Sport Science, evaluated the effect of tai chi on patients with chronic heart failure compared with a control group. The investigators found that compared with patients who did not participate in the 12 weeks of tai chi, those who did experienced an improvement in quality of life, exercise capacity, and sleep stability.

In an invited commentary in the same issue of the Archives of General Medicine, John L. Teerlink, MD, commented on the tai chi study, noting that “Mind-body medicine holds tremendous potential to improve both functional capacity and health related quality of life in patients with HF [heart failure]; it is time to give these therapies the studies they deserve.”

Authors of the new research have completed one such study. They concluded that tai chi “is safe and has good rates of adherence” and may offer several important benefits for frail, deconditioned individuals who have chronic heart failure, including improved daily exercise, quality of life, self-efficacy and mood.

Teerlink JR. Archives of Internal Medicine 2011; 171(8): 758-59
Yeh GY et al. Archives of Internal Medicine 2011; 171(8): 750-57
Yeh GY et al. Medicine and Sport Science 2008; 52: 195-208