Research show benefits of Tai Chi for patients with COPD

Research by a Trust respiratory expert has shown that the ancient art of Tai Chi is a lower-cost, more easily accessible alternative to conventional rehabilitation for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients. 

Professor Michael PolkeyRespiratory consultant Professor Michael Polkey, alongside Chinese researchers from the State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease in Guangzhou, carried out a study of the impact of Tai Chi on respiratory function. 

It showed that Tai Chi is a viable alternative to pulmonary rehabilitation (PR), the usual form of management for improving respiratory function. 

Tai Chi, which originated in China, involves stretching, breathing and coordinated movement. 

The study tracked 120 patients with COPD in rural China who had never used a bronchodilator (a medication that makes breathing easier by relaxing the muscles in the lungs and widening the airways). 

After beginning daily treatment with the bronchodilator, subjects were randomly assigned to groups receiving traditional PR or Tai Chi. After 12 weeks, a clinically significant difference in health status (as measured through a questionnaire) emerged favouring Tai Chi. Similar trends were noted in performance of a six-minute walk test. 

Professor Polkey said: "Physical activity is key to reducing symptoms in COPD. We do recommend PR, but our study shows that Tai Chi is a viable alternative when there is no local PR service. We encourage PR providers to consider offering Tai Chi as an alternative therapy that patients would then be able to continue unsupervised in their own home.

"The study has implications for the UK too. Provision of PR can be patchy in some parts of the country and practising Tai Chi offers a more easily accessed alternative."

The study was published in the journal Chest. 

Pulmonary rehabilitation clinic in session


< New medicines help improve quality of life 

Research leadership success for cystic fibrosis expert >