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Tai Chi May Benefit People With Heart Failure

Woman performing tai chi

©Matthew Lester

Tai chi exercise may improve quality of life, mood, and exercise self-efficacy (belief in one’s own abilities) in people with chronic heart failure, according to a 2011 study funded in part by NCCAM. Tai chi is a mind and body practice that originated in China as a martial art and is used by many people to improve health and well-being. There are many different styles of tai chi, but all involve slow, relaxed, gentle movements, each flowing into the next. Tai chi is sometimes referred to as “moving meditation”—the body is in constant motion, and practitioners focus on posture and deep breathing. This study builds on previous research that has shown that tai chi may be beneficial for people with cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular risk factors.

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital evaluated exercise capacity, quality of life, physical activity, and mood in 100 people with chronic heart failure. The participants were randomly assigned to either a tai chi group, in which members participated in 1-hour tai chi classes twice weekly for 12 weeks, or an education (control) group, in which members participated in classes about coping with heart failure for the same duration and frequency as the tai chi classes.

The researchers found that the participants in the tai chi group had clinically significant improvements in quality of life when compared with the education group. In addition, improvements in mood and an increase in daily activity were seen in the tai chi group participants. However, significant differences were not seen between the tai chi and exercise groups for two exercise capacity measurements—peak oxygen intake and performance on a walking test.

The researchers concluded that tai chi shows promise as a complement to standard medical care for people with chronic heart failure. Further research is needed to better understand how tai chi benefits people with cardiovascular disease, particularly looking at how certain elements of tai chi, including deep breathing and aerobic exercise, may contribute to symptom relief or symptom management.


Publication Date: 
April 25, 2011

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This page last modified February 27, 2017