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Tai Chi helps heart failure patients

The ancient Chinese exercise of Tai chi may improve quality of life for people suffering from heart failure.

Tai Chi helps heart failure patients

The ancient Chinese exercise of Tai chi may improve quality of life for people suffering from heart failure.

Tai chi combines flowing circular movements, balance and weight-shifting, breathing techniques and focused internal awareness. It has already been shown to be helpful with a number of medical conditions, including hypertension (high blood pressure), balance, musculoskeletal diseases and fibromyalgia.

Maintaining an exercise regimen is important in heart failure and Tai chi may be a suitable alternative or adjunct exercise for these patients. Tai chi incorporates low / moderate intensity aerobics with strength training, breathing techniques, relaxation and stress management.

Heart failure results in substantial lowering of functional capacity, quality of life and mood. While traditional aerobic exercise may provide some benefits to patients with heart failure, many heart failure patients have difficulty in engaging and sustaining regular aerobic exercise. There has been interest in using mind-body exercises such as Tai chi for patients with heart failure. It may be more easily implemented, pleasant and have the additional benefit of meditation.

Researchers randomly assigned 100 American patients with heart failure to a 12 weeks Tai chi program or to educational sessions about heart failure. It was found that although both groups had similar oxygen use during six-minute walks, those who practiced Tai chi showed greater improvements in quality of life. In addition, those taking part in Tai chi also showed improvement in mood and improvement in the number of calories burned each week, compared with those in the education programme. People with chronic heart failure suffer from the inability of the heart to pump blood efficiently to meet the body's needs. The condition causes shortness of breath, coughing, chronic venous congestion, ankle swelling and difficulty exercising. Tai chi training improved important parameters of quality of life, mood and confidence to perform exercise in patients with heart failure.

As a complement to standard medical care, this study demonstrated that Tai chi enhanced quality of life, mood and exercise capacity. Tai chi appears to be a safe alternative to low- to moderate-intensity conventional exercise training in patients with heart failure. Further studies are however needed to compare Tai chi to aerobic exercise training, and to determine if participation in Tai chi will have a favourable impact on risk of hospitalisation or survival in patients with heart failure.
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