By ANGELA HAUPT
April 26, 2011
Study: Tai Chi Improves Mood and Quality of Life for Heart Failure Patients
The ancient Chinese exercise tai chi—which blends moderate-intensity aerobics with strength training, breathing techniques, and stress management—could boost heart patients' quality of life. Researchers split 100 patients with heart failure into two groups: Half participated in a 12-week tai chi program, while the others spent 12 weeks in an educational program learning about heart-related issues, like low-sodium diets and heart-rhythm problems. At the end of the study, the tai chi group reported improvements in mood, less depression, less fatigue, and more energy than the others—and those in the first group were more likely to continue with some type of physical activity, according to findings published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine. "Maintaining an exercise regimen is important in heart failure," study author Gloria Yeh of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center told HealthDay. "Tai chi may be a suitable alternative or adjunct exercise for these patients."
The gentle, 2,000-year-old Chinese practice of tai chi is often described as "meditation in motion." But the Harvard Women's Health Watch newsletter suggests a more apt description is "medication in motion."
Tai chi, the most famous branch of Qigong, or exercises that harness the qi (life energy, pronounced "chee"), has been linked to health benefits for virtually everyone from children to seniors. Researchers aren't sure exactly how, but studies show that tai chi improves the quality of life for breast cancer patients and Parkinson's sufferers. Its combination of martial arts movements and deep breathing can be adapted even for people in wheelchairs. And it has shown promise in treating sleep problems and high blood pressure.