Effects of Tai Chi and running on blood oxygen saturation: a pilot study

Author: P Anthony Gryffin1, Rafael E Diaz2
1 Allied Health, Cosumnes River College, Sacramento, CA, USA.
2 California State University Sacramento, Sacramento, CA, USA.
Conference/Journal: J Complement Integr Med
Date published: 2021 Mar 31
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1515/jcim-2020-0306. , Word Count: 237

Large drops in blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) to levels as low as 84% was observed following Tai Chi practice, during a study on the effects of Tai Chi on SpO2. The objectives of the current pilot study were to determine if this was a statistically significant drop, and how SpO2 levels compared to an aerobic activity such as running, in pre, concurrent, and post measurements.

Repeated measures of blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) were taken of a 50-year-old male before, during and for 1 min after TC and running.

Measurements of SpO2 before, during, and after TC resulted in a statistically significant increase in SpO2 during TC (p=1.69e-06), and a statistically significant (p=1.71e-06) brief momentary drop from resting levels, as low as 87% SpO2. Running showed no significant change in pre and post levels, with a significant change and decrease in SpO2 during running (p=1.1e-08), suggesting increased oxygen use by the large muscle groups during exercise. SpO2 returned to normal resting levels following running with no post drop. Results suggest a higher rate of oxygen metabolism during TC, with a potential effect on hypoxic (oxygen deficient) areas of the body.

Findings suggest direct and unique effects on enhanced blood oxygen saturation and oxygen metabolism, which may underlie benefits for conditions complicated by hypoxia, including cardiopulmonary disease, immunity, chronic pain, and arthritis.

Keywords: Tai Chi; blood oxygen saturation; exercise; hypoxia; running.

PMID: 33793144 DOI: 10.1515/jcim-2020-0306