A recent study showed that tai chi is more beneficial to heart-failure patients than simple aerobic exercise. The study was conducted by the Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the VA Boston Healthcare system. It was a small sample size, but it was a good study because they compared tai chi to aerobic exercise. This study is one of the few studies that gave very complete details on the tai chi that was taught. They used adapted forms from Chen Man Cheng's Yang style tai chi.
This study looked at 16 patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFPEF). Definitive therapy for this disease is unclear. Aerobic exercise has been shown to help this group. However, compliance with the exercise regimen is typically fairly low.
This study lasted 12 weeks. Compliance in the tai chi group was 89%. There were several measures where the tai chi group improved more than the group that did the aerobic exercise. These include 6 minute walk distance and Profile of Mood States-Depression scores. During exercise, the tai chi group showed reduced oxygen uptake, respiratory rate, and heart rate. This indicates that the tai chi group wasn't working as hard. This indicates a lower cardiovascular risk.
There were several other measures where there was no difference between groups. These include Minnesota Living with Heart Failure scores, self efficacy, and peak oxygen uptake.
The authors concluded that tai chi is feasible and safe in this study group. Therapeutic endpoints appear similar with tai chi relative to aerobic exercise despite a lower aerobic training workload.
My conclusions are that the improvement in Profile of Mood States-Depression is very important. It means that tai chi improves health, which we already knew, and it improves attitudes about life. In other words, this study shows that tai chi works with the mind and body to improve a patient's outlook on life.
The article was published online on Oct 12, 2012 ahead of publication in Congestive Heart Failure. The article is available online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/chf.12005/full.
© 2012 Eric Borreson