Research continues to substantiate the value of tai chi as a form of moderate exercise for people with chronic diseases. Scientists have now found that adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are among those who may benefit.
A 12-week modified tai chi training program helped adults with COPD to improve exercise capacity, balance, physical performance, muscular strength, quality of life and functional performance, according to a study published in the European Respiratory Journal (2012; doi: 10.1183/09031936.00036912). Investigators from the Concord Repatriation General Hospital and the University of Sydney, both in Sydney, conducted the study to determine the effect of short-form Sun-style tai chi and to investigate exercise intensity among people with COPD. Sun-style tai chi is also the form of tai chi recommended for people with arthritis.
Lead study author Regina Leung, PhD, candidate in Sydney University’s faculty of health sciences and a physiotherapist at Concord Repatriation Hospital, said, “Our results showed an improvement in exercise capacity and quality of life, but also in muscle strength and balance, which had never been shown in previous tai chi studies in people with COPD. Improvement in balance and muscle strength of the lower limbs is very important in reducing the risk of falls for people with COPD, who are generally more at risk, as their balance tends to be worse than [that of] others in the same age group.
“Participants in the tai chi training program completed a survey after the training, and along with the health benefits, a very high percentage of the group really enjoyed tai chi.” This could explain why compliance—a challenge with traditional exercise programs—was high among tai chi participants.
Mind-body benefits were also evident. “Even though tai chi movements can be difficult to learn and coordinate, patients said tai chi helped their memory, concentration and relaxation,” said Leung. “These additional mental challenges seem unique in tai chi training compared to traditional exercise training in people with COPD.”
More research is recommended.