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Tai chi helps heart failure patients

26th April 2011

People with chronic heart failure may improve their quality of life by practising tai chi, and could also improve their mood by doing so, according to a recent US study.

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In patients with chronic systolic heart failure, the martial art was a valid form of exercise.

In the study, tai chi did not affect people's performance on six-minute walk tests, though it did seem to affect wellbeing.

The study authors said that, as a rule, patients with chronic systolic heart failure had often been considered too frail for exercise.

They said that tai chi, however, was safe and furthermore beneficial, possibly improving self-efficacy in people who were otherwise frail.

For the study, the researchers evaluated 100 people who had all experienced systolic heart failure.

The researchers randomly picked 50 people to do two hours a week of tai chi for 12 weeks, and assigned the other 50 people to an education group led by a nurse.

The nurse taught them about issues related to heart failure, including low-sodium diets and arrhythmia.

The people who took the class reported a sharp drop in vigour, from 8 to -2, whereas the people who learned about tai chi reported a small increase in vigour.

After the study had finished, the researchers did not find any significant differences between the overall physical health of the group that did tai chi and the group that did not.

Patients in the tai chi group, however, reported having a greater quality of life and increased wellbeing.

The people who were assigned to tai chi also reported feeling more confident with low levels of physical activity, as well as on a day-to-day basis, than the group that did not study tai chi.

During the twelve-week course, study subjects learned exercises with names like waving hands like clouds, washing the body with qi, and grasping the sparrow's tail.

Experts currently do not understand why the study subjects would have benefitted from tai chi.

Gloria Yeh, of the Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, said that tai chi appeared to be a safe alternative to low-to-moderate intensity conventional exercise training.

In previous studies, researchers have found that tai chi may also help people who suffer from fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, and high stress.


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