Patients with chronic heart failure seem to have a better quality of life and mood if they regularly practice Tai Chi, researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center revealed in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

As background information, the researchers wrote:

“Historically, patients with chronic systolic heart failure were considered too frail to exercise and, through the late 1980s, avoidance of physical activity was a standard recommendation. Preliminary evidence suggests that meditative exercise may have benefits for patients with chronic systolic heart failure; this has not been rigorously tested in a large clinical sample.”

Gloria Y. Yeh, M.D., M.P.H., and team monitored and evaluated 100 patients with systolic heart failure who were recruited into the study between May 2005 and September 2008. Half of them were randomly selected to take part in a 12-week Tai-Chi exercise intervention group, while the other half were in a time-matched education group.

The Tai Chi group had two one-hour classes per week, while the education classes were also twice weekly and led by a nurse practitioner. The two groups were fairly similar in heart disease severity, rate of comorbities and demographics.

At the end of the 12 weeks those in the Tai Chi group had significantly more improved quality of life compared to the education group, even though their change in six-minute walk distance and peak oxygen uptake were similar.

Those in the tai chi group also had greater confidence to perform certain exercise-related activities – known as exercise self-efficacy – compared to the other groups. The Tai Chi group participants were physically more active and generally had a greater feeling of well being, the researchers found.
The authors wrote:

“In conclusion, tai chi exercise, a multi-component mind-body training modality that is safe and has good rates of adherence, may provide value in improving daily exercise, quality of life, self-efficacy and mood in frail, deconditioned patients with systolic heart failure. A more restricted focus on traditional measured exercise capacity may underestimate the potential benefits of integrated interventions such as tai chi.”

“Tai Chi Exercise in Patients With Chronic Heart Failure – A Randomized Clinical Trial”
Gloria Y. Yeh, MD, MPH; Ellen P. McCarthy, PhD; Peter M. Wayne, PhD; Lynne W. Stevenson, MD; Malissa J. Wood, MD; Daniel Forman, MD; Roger B. Davis, ScD; Russell S. Phillips, MD
Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(8):750-757. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.150

Written by Christian Nordqvist