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Tai Chi Benefits People With COPD

Graceful Exercise Increases Endurance, Balance, and Quality of Life
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 9, 2012 -- The gentle movements of Sun-style tai chi (SSTC) can improve the lives and boost the exercise endurance of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to a new study by Australian researchers.

After 12 weeks, practitioners of this form of tai chi could walk longer distances and reported better quality of life compared to those whose treatment did not include any exercise training.

This is good news for people with COPD because it gives them more fitness choices, according to researcher Regina Wai Man Leung of Concord Repatriation General Hospital and the University of Sydney.

"With increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with COPD, it is important to provide different options for exercise that can be tailored to suit each individual," Leung, a cardiorespiratory physiotherapist, said in a news release that accompanied the study.

Testing Tai Chi

Forty-two people with COPD participated in the study. Their average age was 73. Half of them received standard rehab. The others, meanwhile, attended twice-weekly, hour-long sessions of a modified version of SSTC, which was comprised of 21 exercises, or forms, as well as controlled breathing. They practiced tai chi at home for 30 minutes on days when they did not have a class.

This type of tai chi, the researchers write, is an excellent choice for their COPD patients.

"Each form can be broken down into several movements which are easy to teach and learn. Compared to some other styles of tai chi, SSTC involves less difficult movements, such as less deep-knee bending and single-leg standing, which may make it more suitable for older people," the researchers write.

Each of the participants underwent several tests before and after the 12-week study period. The primary test evaluated how far and for how long they were able to walk at progressively faster speeds before becoming breathless.

The researchers also measured their balance, the strength of their quadriceps, and overall physical performance. Finally, the participants completed questionnaires to determine if they had symptoms of depression and/or anxiety and to gauge how highly they rated their quality of life.

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