By Robert Preidt
The new review of 35 studies included more than 2,200 people in 10 countries. The investigators found that, among people with heart disease, these types of low-risk activities appeared to help lower blood pressure and levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol and other unhealthy blood fats.
Tai chi, qigong and other traditional Chinese exercises were also linked to improved quality of life and reduced depression in heart disease patients, the study authors added.
But the exercises did not significantly improve heart rate, aerobic fitness levels or general health scores, according to the report published March 9 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
"Traditional Chinese exercises are a low-risk, promising intervention that could be helpful in improving quality of life in patients with cardiovascular diseases -- the leading cause of disability and death in the world," study co-author Yu Liu, said in a journal news release.
"But the physical and psychological benefits to these patients of this increasingly popular form of exercise must be determined based on scientific evidence," added Liu. He is dean of the School of Kinesiology at Shanghai University of Sport in China.
The association reported in the study doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship between activities such as tai chi and improved heart health.
But, the researchers said they plan to conduct randomized, controlled trials -- the gold standard for scientific research -- to review the effect of different types of traditional Chinese exercises on chronic diseases.