Dr. Gray's Straight Talk

Honest and blunt healthcare discussion and advice.

Tai Chi For Health

Posted by Dr. Gray on Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tai chi is an ancient practice that combines breathing techniques, meditation and body movements performed in slow-motion. Although first taught as a form of self-defense, tai chi is now practiced by millions of people worldwide as a means of reducing stress, promoting balance and flexibility, and enhancing well-being.

A recent study examined the role tai chi can play in treating heart failure. In the trial, 30 patients with chronic stable heart failure (average age 64) were randomized to receive either “usual care” (consisting of drug therapy and diet/exercise counseling), or usual care plus 12 weeks of tai chi training. Tai chi training consisted of a one-hour tai chi class held twice weekly. To measure changes between groups, the researchers incorporated a variety of tests, including a quality of life questionnaire and an exercise capacity test.

At the end of 12 weeks, patients in the tai chi group had significantly improved quality of life scores compared to the usual care-only group (an average of 25 points higher among tai chi patients). In addition, patients in the tai chi group were able to walk longer distances without difficulty, and had lower levels of B-type natriuretic peptides (an indicator of heart failure) than usual care-only patients. The researchers concluded that tai chi “may be a beneficial adjunctive treatment that enhances quality of life and functional capacity in patients with chronic heart failure who are already receiving standard medical therapy.”

Here is a good picture of the general movements associated with a Tai Chi routine…

… Or, click here to watch a video of Tai Chi being performed.

Give it a try, or sign up for a class… you’ll be surprised at how much fun you have and at what a good workout it is!

Reference: Yeh GY, Wood MJ, Lorell BH, et al. Effects of tai chi mind-body movement therapy on functional status on exercise capacity in patients with chronic heart failure: a randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Medicine Oct. 15, 2004;117(8):541-548

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3 Responses to “Tai Chi For Health”

  1. aroma1 said

    nice blog

  2. Carolyn said

    Verrrrry interesting article!

    I am a heart attack survivor and a 2008 graduate of the WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium for Women With Heart Disease at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. You can find out more at: http://www.myheartsisters.org , a site devoted entirely to the important subject of women’s heart disease. Can you let us know the source of this research study? I’d like to include a link to the original on my site, too.

    During our five days at Mayo last year (which I like to describe as part world-class cardiology training and part community activism bootcamp!) our daily agenda was perfectly planned, considering that all 50 of us were heart patients with varying degrees of stamina. Intense cardiology lectures were broken up by half-hour sessions like “Tai Chi for Heart Health”. Organizers even sent each of us home with a Mayo Clinic DVD about tai chi. It’s a wonderful exercise, especially for heart patients!

    Keep up the good work, Dr. Gray!

    Carolyn Thomas

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