Tai Chi shows promise as cardiac rehab exercise: study

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-10-12 14:53

Tai Chi shows promise as cardiac rehab exercise: study

Jose de Jesus Martinez, 71, exercises Tai Chi in Mexico City, capital of Mexico, Nov. 14, 2015. [File photo/Xinhua]

Tai Chi, a traditional Chinese practice involving slow and gentle movements, may help heart disease patients who decline traditional cardiac rehabilitation, according to preliminary research published Wednesday.

In a small study of 29 physically inactive heart disease patients, researchers found that Tai Chi may improve exercise behaviors in this high-risk population with no observable adverse events except for minor muscular pain at the beginning of training.

After a heart attack, more than 60 percent of patients decline participation in cardiac rehabilitation, often because they perceive physical exercise as unpleasant, painful or impossible given their current physical condition, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

"We thought that Tai Chi might be a good option for these people because you can start very slowly and simply and, as their confidence increases, the pace and movements can be modified to increase intensity," lead author Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, assistant professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University, said in a statement.

"Tai Chi exercise can reach low-to-moderate intensity levels. The emphasis on breathing and relaxation can also help with stress reduction and psychological distress," she said.

The study, conducted at The Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, involved eight women and 21 men, whose average age was 67.9 years. Most of them had experienced a previous heart attack or procedure to open a blocked artery, and all had declined cardiac rehabilitation and continued to have many high-risk characteristics, including current smoker, diabetes, high cholesterol, and being overweight or obese.

For the study, they took part in a shorter program with 24 classes over 12 weeks or a longer program with 52 classes over 24 weeks. All participants received a DVD so that they could practice Tai Chi at home.

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