The Effect of Tai Chi on Chronic Obstructive Disease

A Pilot Randomised Study of Lung Function, Exercise Capacity and Diaphragm Strength

Ruichao Niu, Ruoxi He, Bai-ling Luo, Chengping Hu
Heart, Lung and Circulation (2014) 23, 347-352

The current study, unlike many of its predecessors, evaluated the effects of tai chi quan on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) looking specifically at three components, lung function, exercise capacity and diaphragm strength. The study was designed as a single blinded randomised trial. Forty-six CPOD sufferers were randomly placed in two groups, a control group that was offered a non-specific form of low-impact exercise (walking and associated medical care) and the tai chi group. The trial lasted six months. The tai chi cohort participated in four supervised sessions each week and was provided with a booklet and DVD for home use. At the end of the trial outcome measurements were assessed by two physicians who had no knowledge of the study design or the group (control or test) in which the participants were enrolled.

Outcomes of lung function, exercise capacity and diaphragm were all improved in both groups; however, the tai chi group saw a greater improvement in each category. Previous studies investigating tai chi quan use in patients with COPD have shown similar results but used flawed research designs making the observations inconsistent. This study provides preliminary data to support the use of tai chi in respiratory rehabilitation for patients with COPD.  The authors stressed that this is a pilot and a larger trial is needed for detailed results and to clarify the significance of tai chi quan as a means of pulmonary rehabilitation.