April 29, 2011

Tai Chi Helps Heart Patients

((Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese system of slowly flowing movements and shifts of balance that strengthens the legs while conditioning the tendons and ligaments of the ankles, knees, and hips, increasing their range of motion and making them more resilient. Tai Chi is a physical exercise that focuses the mind, while conditioning the body. In a recent study, Tai Chi exercises appear to be associated with improved quality of life, mood and exercise self-efficacy in patients with chronic heart failure.

"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," the authors are quoted as saying. "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., of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues evaluated 100 outpatients with systolic heart failure who were recruited between May 1, 2005 and September 30, 2008. Fifty percent of patients were randomized to a 12-week Tai Chi-based exercise intervention group, and 50 were randomized to a time-matched education group.

The Tai Chi intervention group consisted of one-hour group classes held bi-weekly for 12 weeks. The instructional sessions were moreover held two times a week for the exact same length as the Tai Chi lessons and were led by a nurse practitioner. The two groups were usually comparable in demographics, clinical categorization of heart disease severity, as well as rates of comorbidities.

At the conclusion of the study, there were no considerable dissimilarities in change in six-minute walk distance and peak oxygen uptake in comparison with the Tai Chi and control groups; conversely, participants in the Tai Chi group had better improvements in their quality of life. In due course, the Tai Chi group furthermore displayed improvements in exercise self-efficacy (the belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain certain goals). They also reported increased daily activity and related feelings of well being compared with the education group.

"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," the authors concluded. "A more restricted focus on traditional measured exercise capacity may underestimate the potential benefits of integrated interventions such as Tai Chi."

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, April 25, 2011