People with chronic heart failure may be able to boost their quality of life by doing tai chi, the ancient Chinese exercise regimen, a US study suggested on Monday.
Two group sessions of one hour each per week were enough to show significant improvements in mood and confidence, said the Boston-based study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a journal of the American Medical Association.
The study compared 50 US heart patients who enrolled in tai chi classes - sessions led by an instructor who guided the class in a series of fluid motions - to 50 who took classroom study in heart education.
Physical responses were similar in both groups, but those who did tai chi showed "significant" improvements according to their answers in a questionnaire to assess their emotional state.
The tai chi group also reported better "exercise self-efficacy (confidence to perform certain exercise-related activities), with increased daily activity, and related feelings of well-being compared with the education group," said the study.
While experts admit they do not fully understand the science behind the findings, the study offers a positive option for complementing standard medical care of people with chronic heart failure, a debilitating and progressive disease that limits a person's ability to breathe and move.
"Tai chi appears to be a safe alternative to low-to-moderate intensity conventional exercise training," said lead author Gloria Yeh of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
"Tai chi is safe and has a good rate of adherence and may provide value in improving daily exercise, quality of life, self-efficacy and mood in frail, deconditioned patients with systolic heart failure," said Yeh.
Yeh is also an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Research and Education in Complimentary and Integrative Medical Therapies at Harvard Medical School.
Previous studies have suggested tai chi, which involves slow, circular movements and balance-shifting exercises, may be helpful to people who suffer from high blood pressure, fibromyalgia and stress.