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May 01, 2016

Tai Chi Boosts Quality of Life in Patients with Heart Disease

A review of 35 studies confirms heart health benefits of traditional Chinese exercises.

Traditional Chinese exercises like tai chi help improve outcomes and quality of life in patients with heart disease, based on a recent review of 35 past studies published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

There’s no question that exercise is key to the prevention and treatment of heart disease. Physical activity helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol, promotes a healthy weight and boosts energy and mood, to name a few. But what about Chinese exercises like tai chi, qi gong and baduanjin, which focus on breathing and movement? These activities are extremely gentle and have been used as a form of healing for more than 2,000 years. However, their role and significance when it comes to Western medicine is less clear.

To learn more, researchers analyzed 35 clinical trials that looked at the benefits of traditional Chinese exercises in patients with heart disease. Together, these studies included 2,249 patients and compared various exercise interventions with Chinese exercises like tai chi.

After pooling data, researchers found that traditional Chinese exercises significantly decreased blood pressure and triglycerides in patients with heart disease. Chinese exercises also improved exercise endurance, quality of life and overall mood compared to standard treatment or other forms of exercise like strength training. Patients practicing these exercises reported fewer symptoms of depression than those on other interventions.

Based on findings, authors believe that patients with heart disease can benefit from traditional Chinese exercises. Not only may these exercises boost outcomes, they promote a better quality of life in patients with heart disease. As experts highlight, they’re generally safe for all ages and fitness levels.

Exercises like tai chi require no special equipment and can be performed anywhere, including outside or indoors. So for patients who are unable to do more vigorous forms of exercise, traditional Chinese exercises may be a good option to promote better health. With larger clinical trials, experts hope to confirm the healing benefits of Chinese exercises and increase their use in the United States.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What can I do to control coronary artery disease?
  • If you have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease or had a heart attack, there’s a lot you can do to improve your heart health. A treatment plan that combines diet, exercise, and medicine can help prevent another heart attack or the need for bypass surgery in the future. Steps you can take to protect your arteries include:

    • Keep high blood pressure under control. 
    • Keep your cholesterol levels within a healthy range.
    • Don’t smoke.
    • Lose weight if you are overweight.
    • Treat high blood sugar.
    • Get regular physical activity.
    • Adopt a heart healthy diet.
    • Brush and floss your teeth daily and get regular dental checkups.
    • Take your medicines as your doctor has directed.
  • What are the benefits of physical activity?
  • Regular physical activity has a wealth of benefits, such as reducing risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, cancer and heart disease. Exercise can also increase energy, improve mood, and promote better sleep. Regular physical activity is a key component of a healthy lifestyle.


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Move More

Exercising is one of the single best ways to improve and maintain health. Learn more »