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Apr 27, 2011

Could Tai Chi Improve Health in Heart Failure Patients?

Tai chi improves quality of life, mood, and confidence in patients with heart failure.

Over the years, patients with heart failure have been encouraged to participate in regular physical activity to help improve their condition. For many, however, it’s easier said than done. As heart failure constricts patients’ abilities to exercise, many patients become nervous about increasing their physical activity, or are just too tired to start. But what if heart failure patients could experience significant health benefits from more relaxing, low-intensity forms of exercise?

A recent study published by the American Medical Association demonstrated numerous benefits from the use of an ancient meditative exercise, known as Tai Chi, in patients with heart failure. Tai chi is a low-impact meditative exercise that focuses on balance, movement and breathing techniques to increase internal awareness. While this activity may seem simple, it can actually increase the heart rate by 50-74% and help relax the mind, which can have many health benefits.

 In 100 patients with systolic heart failure, researchers found that those participating in a 12-week tai chi program saw significant improvements in quality of life, mood, and confidence in performing exercise-related activities. While data failed to demonstrate significant improvements in the exercise capacity and function of patients participating in tai chi, the other health benefits seen are extremely encouraging for both patients and providers.

Suffering from chronic heart failure can be extremely discouraging to patients over time. Through the use of meditative practices such as tai chi, patients are provided an outlet increases their confidence in physical activity, and most importantly can significantly improve their quality of life and mood. In fact, most participants practiced tai chi at home in addition to the weekly class part of the study, and reported continued practice after the study ended. Therefore, not only were the clinical benefits of tai chi in patients with heart failure proven by researchers, patients were responsive on a personal level, enjoying the practice and reaping the health benefits.  

Questions for You to Consider

  • How often was tai chi practiced in this study?
  • Study participants attended one tai chi class each week, and were encouraged to practice at home after viewing an instructional video on home practice. Each class was 60 minutes long.
  • Can tai chi be dangerous for some patients?

  • There were no adverse events related to the practice of tai chi in a specific  study. However, patients with heart failure should consult their physician before beginning a new type of exercise, to make sure that it’s right for them.

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